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Physical Therapy for Obesity – Information, Exercises, and More

Obesity is a worldwide epidemic, affecting people from all walks of life. Not only can obesity lead to a number of chronic conditions, it can also make day-to-day life more difficult.

While it may feel like fighting obesity is an uphill battle, there is hope. 

Physical therapy for obesity can help. 

In this guide, we’ll discuss the causes and symptoms of obesity and how physical therapy is helping millions of people fight obesity and get their life back. 


What Is Obesity?

Obesity is an increasingly common condition that involves the storage of excess body fat. Obesity can negatively affect the body in many ways, leading to health problems, such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Respiratory illness
  • Depression
  • Osteoarthritis 
  • Lymphedema 

Due to increased body weight, obesity can cause people to have difficulty engaging in daily activities and limit their mobility.

Obesity affects people of all ages, economic levels, and race. Adults are considered obese if their BMI (body mass index) is 30 or higher, and children are obese if their BMI is at the 95th percentile or above.

What Causes Obesity?

The most common cause of obesity is an imbalance in caloric intake vs. energy expenditure. While there are behavioral, genetic, hormonal, and metabolic influences involved, diet is the number one factor.

In the United States, many people consume a diet that is calorie-rich, whether it’s from fast food or high-calorie beverages, and exercise much less than they should.

People living in Western countries have jobs that are less physically demanding, are accustomed to conveniences, such as drive-throughs, escalators, and online shopping, and generally tend to eat more and move less.

Obesity Symptoms

A person who is obese may experience:

  • Excess body fat, especially around the waist
  • Sweating more than usual
  • Fatigue when performing daily activities
  • Shortness of breath
  • Snoring
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Joint pain
  • Skin problems from moisture between folds in the fat
  • Negative self-esteem, shame, social isolation
  • Frustration about the inability to lose weight

The psychological impact of obesity can also negatively affect your relationships with your friends and family.

Obesity Treatment

The healthiest and most effective treatment for obesity is lifestyle changes, such as eating a balanced diet and increasing physical activity. However, for severe obesity, other options exist.

Dietary Changes

Reducing calories and eating healthier are essential to weight loss. Reviewing what you’re currently eating and drinking is the first step to determining how many calories you need to cut from your diet.

Eating foods that provide a large portion size with fewer calories can also help. Foods such as fruits and vegetables should be incorporated into every meal.

A diet focused on lean sources of protein, whole grains, and plant-based foods will make your overall diet healthier and reduce your caloric intake while keeping you feeling full.

You may also consider restricting foods such as sugars, unhealthy fats, and carbohydrates. 

The key to success is to make sustainable changes over time. Crash diets rarely work, and they can be dangerous.

Physical Activity

Increasing physical activity and exercise are vital components of fighting obesity. You should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week to prevent further weight gain and maintain weight loss.

Aerobic exercise is the most effective way to burn calories and shed weight, but any extra movement will also help to burn calories. Try taking the stairs instead of an escalator, walking your dogs for an extra 10 minutes, or parking further away from the entrance to a store.

Behavior Changes

Behavior modification programs are designed to help you lose weight and keep it off by making conscious lifestyle changes. A therapist will examine your current habits to determine if there are any stresses, situations, or factors contributing to your obesity.

Through counseling and support groups, you can address the behavioral and emotional issues related to your over-eating. You’ll learn how to monitor your activity levels and diet, cope with food cravings, and understand your triggers.

Weight Loss Medication

While weight-loss medications exist, they aren’t meant to be used in place of diet, exercise, and behavior changes. Your doctor will consider all possible side effects and your health history before prescribing a medication.

The problem with weight-loss medications is that they don’t work for everyone, and the effects can wane over time. There’s also the risk of regaining some or all of the weight you’ve lost.

Endoscopic Procedures

Endoscopic procedures don’t require an incision, but you will be put under anesthesia. Flexible tubes and tools are inserted through the mouth and down to the stomach.

The most common endoscopic procedures for obesity are:

  • Endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty — Stitches will be placed in the stomach to reduce the amount of volume your stomach can hold at one time. Eating and drinking less over time will help you lose weight.
  • Intragastric balloon for weight loss — A small balloon is placed in the stomach and then filled with water to reduce the amount of room in the stomach. You will feel full after eating a small amount of food.

Weight Loss Surgery

Weight-loss surgery should be thought of as a last or lifesaving resort. Bariatric surgeries limit the food you can comfortably consume, but it also decreases the absorption of food and calories which may lead to a nutrient deficiency.

Obesity Physical Therapy – Will PT Help?

Physical therapy is one of the best options for combating obesity. A physical therapist can help you to be more physically active by teaching you how to exercise in pain-free and fun ways.

When you start a fun exercise routine, it’s common to want to start eating healthy as well. 

Your physical therapist will work with you to devise a customized treatment plan that addresses your needs and includes aerobic exercise and strength training. You’ll also be given exercises to do at home.

In addition to introducing safe exercises, your physical therapist can help you address the underlying causes of your unhealthy behavior and assist you in developing healthier habits and setting goals that you can stick to. 

Physical therapy for obese patients will help you to:

  • Reduce pain
  • Improve cardiovascular fitness
  • Increase strength
  • Improve flexibility and posture
  • Improve mobility

Physical Therapy Exercises for Obese Patients

The American Heart Association recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week. This can be broken down into 30 minutes of exercise, five days a week.

This may seem like a lot to an overweight beginner, but with the help of a physical therapist and a schedule you can stick to, it is possible. 

Aerobic exercise recommendations include:

  • Walking
  • Water aerobics
  • Cycling
  • Strength training
  • Yoga

How In Motion O.C. Can Help With Obesity

At In Motion O.C., we have helped hundreds of people overcome obesity by getting active, making healthier choices, and modifying behaviors. Our programs are 100% unique to the individual and take into account your health history, eating triggers, and level of physical ability.

We were voted #1 on Google and Yelp as the best Physical Therapy Clinic in the entire country for a reason! 

Check out our client reviews and then contact us to request your free screening. We look forward to helping you achieve your health and fitness goals.


The content in this blog should not be used in place of direct medical advice/treatment and is solely for informational purposes.

In Motion O.C.