Physiotherapy and Exercise


It is National Physiotherapy month and I would like to take this opportunity to travel back to our roots. With modern technology and a greater understanding of the body, physiotherapists have grown and acquired more tools to treat clients. However, I think it’s important not to forget where we started – as exercise specialists. Unfortunately, many of us are not utilizing our expert knowledge of exercise. We tend to focus on rehabilitating more than prevention of injuries and other conditions.  So this month, I am going to change that.

Physiotherapists are the experts in exercise prescription! That is where we began. Physiotherapists specialize in human movement, physical activity, promoting health, fitness, and wellness. Although massage, adjustments and mobilizations feel good at the time long-term the pain tends return. Exercise is the long-term solution. Patients need play a more active role in their treatment by doing their exercises to ensure a full recovery and reduce the risk of re-occurrence. Did you know we can also help prevent and treat other conditions with exercise? Specifically, non-communicable diseases.

Non-communicable diseases are conditions that are not acquired through the air or by contact such as the flu. They cannot be caught from other people as they are typically manifested through multiple factors such as lifestyle choices and genetics. Some examples would be diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease and even some mental illness.

In the past people were concerned with death related to the spread of viruses such as the measles or mumps, which could quickly wipe out large numbers, but with modern medicine and vaccines we are mostly protected from these conditions. Currently the most concerning killer are non-communicable diseases, which are responsible for 63% of all deaths worldwide.

Non-communicable disease groups are linked by common controllable risk factors:

  1. Tobacco
  2. Alcohol
  3. Poor Nutrition
  4. Physical Inactivity

Regular physical activity not only helps you to lose weight and feel good, it also reduces the risk of ischaemic heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and breast and colon cancer.  Studies have shown that increasing the amount of physical activity in your day is associated with lower risks of 13 of the 26 cancers (Moore et al, 2016).

According the American College of Sports Medicine, adults aged 18-64 years old should engage in moderate intensity cardiovascular activities at least 30 minutes per day 5 days a week. If you’re exercising more vigorously you need a minimum of 20 minutes per day 3 days a week. In addition to cardiovascular exercise such as running or biking you also need a minimum of two days involving strengthening your major muscle groups.

Physical inactivity has been identified as the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality causing an estimated 3.2 million deaths worldwide (WHO, 2015). Adults who are not physically active enough have a 20−30% increased risk of all-cause mortality. This is compared to those who do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week.

Adolescents aged 11-17 should aim to be physically active at least 60 minutes a day, yet frighteningly enough 81% did not meet this standard in 2010 according to the WHO. Over half of adults over 64 didn’t meet the minimum requirements either. In addition to the recommended 150 minutes a week older adults should also be doing balance exercise for fall prevention.

One of the biggest issues I hear from clients is that they don’t like to go to the gym, which is perfectly normal. Physical activity doesn’t have to be at the gym and can include leisure time activities such as walking, dancing, gardening, hiking, or swimming. Certain occupational jobs, household chores, playing with children or pets, games, and sports are also ways to be more physically active.

Exercise prescription is a little different if you suffer from pre-existing conditions. If you would like to learn more please talk to your physiotherapist. They would be glad to assist you in becoming more physically active to improve your quality of life.

Jillian Adams – MSC. PT.



Global recommendations on physical activity for health.Geneva: World Health Organization; 2010 (, accessed 4 November 2014).

Moore SC, Lee IM, Weiderpass E, Campbell PT, Sampson JN, Kitahara CM, Keadle SK, Arem H, de Gonzalez AB, Hartge P, Adami HO. Association of Leisure-Time Physical Activity With Risk of 26 Types of Cancer in 1.44 Million Adults. JAMA internal medicine. 2016 Jun 1;176(6):816-25

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