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Physiotherapists are playing a pivotal role in working to trim the nation’s expanding waistlines.

As experts in physical activity, weight management, heart disease and diabetes prevention, physiotherapists are increasingly treating patients for being overweight or obese and championing the public health prevention message.

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The peak professional body for physiotherapists, the Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) says physiotherapists are seeing a surge in the number of patients being treated for weight management.

A recent pilot study found 81 per cent of Australian physiotherapists surveyed viewed weight management as a component of their scope of practice, while 85 per cent revealed they have engaged in weight management strategies with their patients.

It comes as the APA launches a public awareness campaign targeting the nation’s sedentary lifestyle for contributing to Australia’s obesity epidemic.

The Australia’s Biggest Killer campaign also aims to promote the role physiotherapists can play in getting people moving.

In the campaign, the APA warns Australia’s biggest killer won’t be found in a police lineup, instead the killer - the couch - lurks in every home and contributes to more than 7000 deaths each year from obesity-related illness.

APA president Marcus Dripps said the campaign aims to get Australians off the couch and moving to embrace a healthy and active lifestyle.

“We’ve become accustomed to sitting down more than we sleep throughout the day – at work, on the couch, in the car – and it’s taking a major toll on our health,” he said.

Research shows time spent sitting is associated with being overweight or obese, unhealthy blood-glucose and blood-lipid profiles, and premature death from heart disease.

“We all need to be moving more, not just exercising 30 minutes, but regularly throughout the day,” Mr Dripps said.

“Mounting evidence shows even basic regular movement like standing up while at work can help prevent health issues like obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and even cancer.”

Figures show 14 million Australians are now overweight or obese while around 6.4 million people participate in less than 90 minutes of physical activity each week.

Being overweight and obese are major risk factors for heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, some types of cancer, high blood pressure, kidney disease, osteoarthritis, mental health, eating disorders, and endometrial, breast and colon cancers.

While diet and physical activity are key in the battle of the bulge, the APA states a range and combination of factors such as social, environmental, behavioural, genetic, physiological and psychological factors also affect healthy lifestyles.

Mr Dripps said more information, advice and support is essential to help get Australia moving.

“Individuals, community groups, health care professionals, governments and industry should be all part of the team to tackle the complex issue of obesity and overweight in Australia – and physiotherapists are in an ideal position to be a major part this group,” he said.

“Health care professionals including physios, GPs, psychologists and dieticians need to work more in partnership to support individuals who are or are at risk of being overweight and obese.”

Mr Dripps said physiotherapists can identify exercise strategies for overweight people and coordinate comprehensive obesity management programs.

“They can help develop a program of exercise to increase your physical activity safely and effectively, and help identify necessary and achievable changes in your lifestyle,” he said.


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Karen Keast

Karen Keast is a freelance health journalist who writes news and feature articles for HealthTimes.

Karen regularly writes for some of Australia’s leading health news websites and magazines.  In a media career spanning 20 years, Karen has worked as a senior journalist in newspapers and television. She has covered the grind of daily news and worked as a politics reporter at countless state and federal elections.

Since venturing into freelance writing five years ago, Karen has found her niche in writing about the health sector for editors, businesses and corporations.

Karen has interviewed the heads of peak health organisations in Australia and overseas, and written hundreds of news and feature articles covering the dedicated work of health professionals who tread the corridors of hospitals and health services, universities, aged care facilities and practices, day in and day out.

Follow Karen Keast on Twitter @stylemywords