The term fitness therapy is a fairly new concept within the rehabilitation and health & wellness industries. Throughout the past several years the most common mistake that people make is thinking that fitness therapy is in fact physical therapy simply because the two terms sound so similar. Even though these two professions share similar verbiage and both play a much needed role within the rehabilitation system in order to maximize efficiency of patient recovery, both services differ in philosophy and purpose.
The philosophy of physical therapy is to focus on the specific injured area(s) of the patient’s body and work to rehabilitate these parts in order to return the individual to pre accident/illness functionality. Physical therapy’s purpose is to rehabilitate the patient during his/her acute and sub acute stages of an injury during an inpatient recovery program and after they have been discharged. Once the physical therapist has had the opportunity to treat the patient over time in an outpatient program, achieve their long term goals/objectives, and restore the patient’s function, mobility, and quality of life to what it was before their injury/illness, or as close as possible to the level it was before the injury/illness occurred, they are discharged.
Fitness therapy focuses on total body health & wellness by conditioning the patient’s entire body, instead of concentrating on the specific injured area(s). The human body is all connected, and chances are when an injury or illness happens to a certain part of the body, a domino effect occurs and other areas are affected. Therefore, strengthening other non-affected areas of the body, along with the injured parts, will make an individual stronger from head to toe.
Fitness therapy’s purpose is to focus on long-term recovery and prepare an individual to function independently by staying physically active across a lifespan, which begins right after a patient is discharged from physical therapy. In order to keep a patient motivated and prevent them from physically regressing, a fitness therapist must educate the individual on proper body mechanics, different exercises to utilize, how to advance a specific exercise to make it more challenging, healthy lifestyle habits, and familiarizing them in a health & wellness center setting. Once these aspects are achieved with a patient, the individual increases their chances of continuing to progress onward, avoid relapsing back to other related therapies, and stay out of hospital systems.
Healthcare providers such as, hospitals, physicians, discharge planners, nurse case managers, and insurance adjusters need to become more proactive by understanding the benefits of utilizing physical therapy and fitness therapy together in order to keep the patient from physically regressing after their physical therapy program has ended. If the healthcare system included fitness therapy as the new standard of care, then a patient would benefit by experiencing continued progress at a faster rate, and the healthcare system would save money by avoiding consistent relapses from the patient after physical therapy due to the individual having an additional resource.
Example of the New Standard of Care Model:
1) Accident/Illness Occurs > 2) Stabilize patient > 3) Inpatient Rehabilitation > 4) Outpatient Rehabilitation > 5) Finess Therapy > 6) Better Quality of Life