Guest Post: Connection Between Physical Wellness and Physical Therapy

Our guest blogger today, Rachel Christie, is a doctoral candidate at Emory University School of Medicine’s Physical Therapy program. This fall, she created and completed a directed study entitled “ Physical Wellness for Progressive Neurological Disorders: Parkinson’s Disease.” She would like to thank PD Gladiators, participants, and teachers “for graciously welcoming me into each class, because without them, this learning experience could not have been made possible.”

In physical therapy school, we spend countless hours learning how to treat neuromuscular conditions. We individualize treatments to address a patient’s specific impairments and activity limitations. We work closely with the patient to reach their goals; then upon attaining these goals, the patient is discharged. This mysterious moment of discharge led to the creation of my directed study.

I wanted to investigate how different forms of physical fitness and various wellness interventions outside of the physical therapy clinic can assist physical function of specific patient populations. Choosing a patient population was not difficult; my personal connection with Parkinson’s disease stems from the recent passing of my great aunt and uncle who both had PD. Furthermore, what better group than one that research shows to be so greatly impacted by exercise alone?

I started from the bottom; I read countless research articles and examined the evidence that supports the physical, cognitive, and emotional benefits of various forms of exercise for people with PD.

During the directed study, people frequently asked me what I have found to be the best exercise for people with PD. The answer is simple: All Exercise. Every class I attended incorporated techniques and movements that specifically address impairments and limitations specific to people with PD. The most important factor is creating long-term exercise habits. Because PD is a progressive disorder, adhering to a program and creating a routine of longevity is crucial.

You might ask, “How?” Finding an exercise program that not only meets fitness needs, but also appeals to personal interests has been shown to be important for long-term exercise adherence (1). So, do the exercise that you enjoy!

If all exercise is beneficial and you need to find types that interest you, then who can help you decide where or how to start? Here is where my future profession, physical therapy, comes into consideration. “Physical therapists can play an integral role in transitioning patients from traditional rehabilitation to such community-based programs by serving as consultants, facilitators, or both to maximize outcomes and promote long-term retention.” (2)

Physical Therapy for Parkinson's DiseasePhysical therapists are experts in movement. We are trained to analyze the whole person while taking into consideration the individual’s current diagnoses. For physical therapists, it is “crucial to educate the patient early about the benefit of an active lifestyle, including regular participation in a specific physiotherapy program, in order to promote independence, physical functionality, and quality of life.” (3)

You use a PT’s knowledge to meet your needs. Physical therapists can integrate various forms of fitness (i.e. Pilates, yoga, boxing, etc.) into treatment to help build confidence. Additionally, PTs can ensure you are maximizing the benefits of your favorite fitness classes by implementing any necessary modifications and adaptations.

Remember to check in with your physical therapist (biannual or annual tune-ups) for assistance in obtaining your fitness goals. YOU are the director of your own health.

So don’t forget:

• The best exercise is your favorite exercise. Get moving!

• Look to your PT for help! See your physical therapist for assistance in selecting appropriate fitness routines and to maximize their value.



  1. Rhodes RE, Martin AD, Taunton JE, et al. Factors associated with exercise adherence among older adults: an individual perspective. Sports Med. 1999; 28:397-411.
  2. Rimmer JH. Health promotion for people with disabilities: the emerging paradigm shift from disability prevention to prevention of secondary conditions. Phys Ther. 1999; 79:495-502.
  3. Borrione P, Tranchita E, Sansone P, Parisi A. Effects of physical activity in Parkinson’s disease: A new tool for rehabilitation. World J Methodol. 2014; 4(3):133-143.


1 response on Guest Post: Connection Between Physical Wellness and Physical Therapy

  1. Is there more benefit from higher intensity intervals in training? One of my doctors recommended lifting heavy weights. I notice a carry over effect at times following a session. I also believe leg training is crucial as many of us have gait disorders or dystonia cramping which makes it tougher to walk, therefore more critical to keep those legs strong.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.