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Obesity: The Threat Many Canadians Face And How Physiotherapy Can Help

Obesity is one of the leading preventable causes of death and disease worldwide. Canada occupies the seventh position in a top 40 countries ranked after obesity cases with roughly 7 million Canadians aged at least 18 years old reporting being overweight[1]. It goes without saying that this poses great dangers on their lives and the numbers are shocking: up to 74% of type 2 diabetes cases are directly caused by this as well as up to 32% of osteoarthritis cases and up to 21% of colorectal cancers. Obesity also increases blood pressure, making people more at risk to having a stroke or developing a cardiovascular condition.

Many obese people choose to undergo stomach-shrinking surgery also known as bariatric surgery. It has been proven to be an effective way in gaining significant weight loss and improve related conditions. However, in Canada there are as few as 113 surgeons across 33 medical centres where such surgeries are recommended to patients or performed. Even so, the spiking prices can stop many patients from seeking the help they need with such an operation costing between $1000 and $2000. There is a lack of obesity management education and training which makes it increasingly difficult for people to benefit from the right services.

Whether a person is post-op and trying to get back on their feet or just looking for a more cost-effective treatment solution, physiotherapy can play an important role in helping millions of Canadians and make a meaningful difference in their lives.

Practitioners have an extensive role in both preventing and managing obesity through physical activities and targeted training. A wide range of exercises integrated with a patient centric approach and motivating, solution-oriented tactics form the basis of physiotherapy. A physiotherapist will adapt according to their patient and can use anything they see fit to help them, from dietary recommendations, activity schedules, behavioural changes or general weight maintenance.

There are numerous studies backing up the positive effects of physiotherapy in obesity cases[2]. It has been shown that moderate physical exercising for as little as 30 minutes on a daily basis can prevent cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and also decrease body weight in a natural, healthy way. Because of how physiotherapy works, the trainer can accompany the patient and guide them every step of the way until they feel confident enough to carry on the routine on their own. The so-called ‘walk and talk’ can do much more than just improve health outcomes, it can also improve state of mind and encourage people to achieve their targets. Nevertheless, if a patient feels more confident following the plan on their own they can engage in an array of activities: cycling, swimming, dancing, skating, skiing, running or aerobics. Here, strength training is equally important as it can help restore balance, improve body functions and boost muscle and joint strength.

When a treatment path is put together by the practitioner, they will also take into consideration the stage of obesity, pre-existing conditions and the patient’s personality to achieve best results.



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