May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, which is an ideal time to shine a light on the vital role played by physical and occupational therapists. These are the professional men and women who help us stay physically healthy, avoid injury, and, when needed, recover from the physical activities throughout our lifetimes.
No matter our age, physical fitness is a core part of what keeps us physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy. From the time that we’re infants through our adolescent years, physical fitness and nutrition help our bodies and minds develop properly. In our teen years when our bodies are rapidly changing, it helps us continue to develop and cope with the growth spurts that affect our bodies, minds, and emotions.
In our young adult years when the stresses of adult life begin to encroach, physical fitness provides an outlet that keeps us focused, builds lean muscle, helps control weight, and staves off illness and health conditions that can be a part of our middle and later years. When we reach those years and our metabolism begins to slow down, we can beat back health conditions that can shorten our lives as well as our love of life.
By the time we’re older, physical fitness keeps our bones strong, our hearts healthy, and our minds clear among other benefits that help us enjoy life to its fullest. Throughout life’s stages, physical fitness brings different challenges. It is the physical and occupational therapists that help us get back to exercising, playing sports, and enjoying physical activities safely after injuries.
Whether we are athletes or average people trying to deal with the toll that the workaday takes on our bodies, we can all benefit from the restorative services of a physical therapist. Driving, sitting, lifting, and repetitive motions are parts of our adult working lives that often require professional intervention and guidance from physical and occupational therapists. These are the professionals that can help guide us through exercises and routine modifications that keep us healthy.
Physical therapists have an understanding of the human body as it grows and changes. Consequently, they are uniquely positioned to help parents and their children overcome and move past physical development hurdles that are common as the body develops.
Young adults who play sports gain a lot from the physical activity, training, and playing of the sports they love. Their bodies also undergo a great deal of stress in order to perform at that level. Physical therapists help these young athletes adopt movements, practices, and routines that are meant to lower that physical stress level and help the body recover from extreme physical exertion and avoid injury.
Throughout adulthood and into our older years, physical fitness and sports should also play a part in our lives even as our bodies tend to rebel in natural ways. Physical therapists help us correct the muscle imbalances or mobility limitations that can leave us prone to serious injury. In instances when injuries do occur, whether they be from sports or work, physical and occupational therapists are there to help us recover both physically and mentally so that we can heal and optimize our physical selves.
Helping people improve their ability to carry out their daily tasks is a prime goal of the occupational therapist. An OT is more likely to perform on-site assessments of both the home environment and work environment in order to provide recommendations on suitable adaptations of each to allow for a better quality of life.
The occupational therapist is trained to modifying the physical environment as well as training the person to use assistive equipment to increase independence. Although physical therapists do on-site assessments as well, this tends to be less common.
While physical therapists and occupational therapists can play active roles in treating injuries, the occupational therapist focuses more on evaluating and improving a person’s functional abilities. Both of these distinct and separate therapy professions are there to bring different tools and techniques to bear in order to improve our health, fitness and quality of life. As we celebrate National Physical fitness and Sports Month, we also need to celebrate the role that physical and occupational therapists play in keeping us moving and healthy.
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