From Physical Therapy to Personal Fitness
Graduating from physical therapy is a good reason to celebrate and there’s no better time to start a fitness program, even if you’ve never been physically active. Regular exercise will help you maintain your therapy results and will keep you feeling good for a long time. Create a plan to stay active and fit, even when you don’t have a therapist watching your every move.
Use It Or Lose It
When your course of treatment is over, you’ll want to get back into the swing of your usual activities. For many people, this means returning to a sedentary lifestyle, but that is one of the worst things you can do. Instead, commit to a regular physical activity program to boost your strength, cardiovascular health, and flexibility. Staying active year-round helps your body and your brain function well. It also increases your odds of staying healthy.
Physical therapists usually discharge patients with home exercise instructions. Before you finish therapy, ask any questions you have about exercises you should and shouldn’t be doing. You should have a clear understanding of which exercises to do, how to do them, how often, for how long, at what level and how you should feel while exercising. As you begin exercising on your own, go easy. Follow your therapist’s instructions to increase your exercise level to avoid injury and discourage setbacks.
The benefits of exercise last only as long as you stay active, so keep a copy of your exercise plan where you’ll see it every day. Track your progress to keep yourself honest. Otherwise, you may end up right where you started, with pain, limited function or injury.
Your therapist can tell you about symptoms to watch for and how to manage them. You may be able to manage some symptoms at home, but others may need to be evaluated by a medical professional.
Beginning your post-rehab personal fitness program at home is a great idea for convenience, privacy, and affordability. Set up your home exercise space with safety in mind. Clear your floor of slipping and tripping hazards and make sure you have a stable surface to sit, stand or lie on and something to hold onto for balance.
Some physical therapy clinics and medical centers offer supervised exercise programs for post-rehab patients. These programs offer advantages, especially if you’re new to exercise or have multiple medical issues. Physical therapists, certified personal trainers, certified athletic trainers and other healthcare professionals work as a team in this setting to make sure you’re on the right track and can easily coordinate with your physician as needed. A medical fitness facility is also a great place to connect with others with similar physical challenges for support and encouragement.
You may wish to exercise at a local gym or recreation center, especially if you already belonged to one before you underwent physical therapy. If your home exercise plan calls for using exercise equipment or machines, working out at a gym is a convenient way to go.
Step It Up
When you’re ready to move beyond your post-rehab exercise program, schedule a few sessions with a certified personal trainer specializing in post-rehab training. Doing so decreases your risk of injury and pain as you continue to build strength and fitness.
Once you begin your personal fitness program, you may have some questions. You might try some of the exercises and realize that for some reason, they don’t feel right to you. Instead of ditching the entire plan, contact your physical therapist or trainer. Some simple adjustments to your routine could make all the difference.
Physical Activity — American Physical Therapy Association
Exercising With a Health Challenge — ACE Fit Facts
Physical Activity for Everyone — Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Exercise Guidelines for People with Disabilities —National Center on Physical Activity Activities and Disability (NCPAD)