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Toni Talks about PT Today

I Exercise At Work

Published April 12, 2011 5:01 PM by Toni Patt

At least once a week I have a conversation where someone asks me which gym I belong to. I've also been asked for the name of my personal trainer. I usually get a shocked response when I deny both gym membership and a personal trainer. I tell everyone I don't need to belong to a gym - I lift weights at work.

It's true. Physical therapists move people. Moving patients is a form of weightlifting. When I transfer a patient, I compensate for whatever the patient is unable to manage. Sometimes I don't help that much. Sometimes I do the majority of the work. A human body that is not moving is a form a dead weight. Often I find myself moving most of it.

Not only do I move that weight, I move it in a variety of directions and heights. One of the first things we're taught about therapeutic exercise is to move the joint through the full ROM. By the time I've moved patients bed to chair, chair to chair, sit to stand from all surfaces and held them up as they walk I've covered the full ROM of just about every joint I use. Good form isn't a problem. If I lack good form I'm not moving anyone anywhere.

Anyone who's ever moved a patient around knows how hard it can be. There is a reason it's called physical therapy and it doesn't come from a hands-on approach. It comes from moving and holding patients. Ours is a labor-intensive profession. It takes strength to support a hemiparetic patient who is learning to walk. It takes balance to keep supporting that person as he shifts weight and move through space.

Even our equipment is heavy. Body-weight-supported treadmills are great because they increase the number of steps a patient is able to take. That also increases the number of times the therapist has to move the leg every time the patient takes a step. Even a skinny chicken leg gets heavy after a few minutes.

I even get aerobic work. The hospital I work in is huge. I do a lot of walking by going from patient to patient, area to area. The parking garage is on one side of the facility. My office area is in another. My patients are yet another hike away. I rarely use elevators because the stairs are so much faster. I feel like I've done wind sprints after climbing a few flights because God knows I'm always in a hurry.

Who needs a gym when I get all this exercise on a daily basis without paying a cent? I know people who pay hundreds of dollars a month for a gym and personal trainer. They should spend a few days shadowing me. That membership would be a thing of the past. That's just what I do at work. When I want to exercise I go to the barn.


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