Encourage your physical therapy patients to work out.

Physical therapy jobs: Tips for encouraging clients to exercise

Exercise is a crucial element in adhering to a healthy lifestyle, and it is even more important for physical therapy patients. Those in travel therapy jobs may design workout regimens for their patients to do at home, as exercise can increase muscle strength, improve flexibility and aid in overall healing, according to Spine-health. However, it's up to those individuals to complete those exercise and achieve the advantages. Here are a few tips physical therapists can offer their patients who need a little motivation:

Set goals
"It's good for your health" is hardly a motivating reason to hit the gym. If it were, we'd all be fit fitness gurus. Instead of giving general reasons as to why a patient needs to complete an exercise regimen, consider setting goals that appeal to the individual. U.S. News and World Report used the example of Nancy D. Brown who turned to physical therapy treatment after having hip replacement surgery. Her surgeon originally said she wouldn't be able to participate in the activities she used to love, such as horseback riding, but Brown and her physical therapist aimed to change that outlook.

"My physical therapy is really about getting me ready to get back in the saddle," Brown said.

This goal was specific to Brown, but physical therapists can help create unique objectives by building connections with patients. For instance, you might learn that your patient has grandkids, and adhering to an exercise regimen may let him or her pick those babies up again without worrying about pain. Meanwhile, another patient may want to walk his daughter down the aisle on her wedding day.

Make it interesting
Often, exercise can seem like a chore, which may make patients less inclined to follow through with at-home regimens. In fact, a study published in the Journal of the American Physical Therapy Association found that barriers like lack of interest led to poor exercise adherence in older adult patients.

Of course, not every exercise is going to be exciting. Some individuals may only be able to lift small weights or spell out the alphabet by wiggling their feet. Simple adjustments like doing the workout during the commercials of a TV show or listening to music can make the task more interesting.

Work out with a partner
Everything's more fun with a friend, and physical therapy patients may need a partner to help motivate them to work out. As Fitness Magazine explained, planning to meet a buddy at the gym means you're more likely to show up, and it gives you a chance to catch up with the person. If your physical therapy patient mentions that she hasn't had much time to talk with her daughter, suggest they exercise together as an opportunity to reconnect. Plus, it's scientifically proven that working out with a partner is more motivating, per research from the Annals of Behavioral Medicine.

Adhering to at-home exercises is critical for physical therapy success, so make sure you provide your patients with the proper motivation.


  1. Making physical therapy fun and interesting does seem like a smart thing to do. I know that I wouldn’t want to get bored of my exercises if I had to be doing them for a long time. So, it might be smart to find a therapist who could show you several ways of exercising one muscle.

  2. It makes sense that physical therapists would want to encourage their clients to exercise regularly. I recently severely injured my shoulder while lifting weights. I definitely think that I should try physical therapy to see if it helps me to recover more quickly.

  3. These are some great tips! It is important to keep your clients engaged and focused on the bigger picture. Setting goals is so important when it comes to physical therapy. For me setting small daily goals and achieving those one step at a time has always been a huge motivator. Once you see yourself improving and you realize the hard work is paying off you don’t want to give up. Thanks for sharing!

  4. I appreciate the idea to work out with a partner to stay on top of exercise when going through physical therapy. My wife has some downtime in the morning, and so I think I’ll ask her to see if she would like to work out with me during that time. My leg got hurt in a soccer accident, and I am thinking that visiting a physical therapist is something I need to do soon so that I can start taking care of my leg.

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