'Take every opportunity to encourage active lifestyles'

Presenters from Australia, Canada, Uganda, and the UK came together to deliver a clear message to physical therapists around the world at the focused symposia session on physical activity – every opportunity must be taken to encourage people to lead active lifestyles.

Chaired by Anna Lowe, from the UK, the presentations took place in one of the largest rooms at WCPT2019 with a full house as delegates appreciated the opportunity to hear the latest thinking on physical activity. 

Each of the speakers used insight from their own countries, research, and patient case studies to showcase the many ways patients can be encouraged to embrace activity and the barriers they face.

The presentations highlighted motivational gadgets such as fitbits and pedometers are proven to increase activity levels while studies showed physical therapists are already doing an excellent job using behaviour change techniques.

Nicole Freene, from Australia, concluded her presentation on her research study with a picture of a sleeping giant and said: ‘Physical therapists are all sleeping giants. If we all incorporated physical activity advice into our consultations, just imagine what we can achieve for populations.’

Anna Lowe focused on the holistic approach to physical activity. She referred to the global action plan which takes a ‘systems-based’ approach looking at how policy action by different stakeholders can reverse the current trends in inactivity. Her message was that physical therapy has a vital role in helping to influence this change.

The self-confessed non-physio on the panel, Sara Hazzard, Communications Associate Director at the UK’s Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, highlighted what can be achieved through an effective public health campaign. Presenting research data collated from both British patients and physical therapists, Sara highlighted the importance of showing empathy for people who struggle with conventional forms of exercise. She proved that with carefully crafted messaging, it is possible to influence behaviour change.

Breanne Kunstler, from Australia, supported this message with her own research which found that Australian adults actually expect physical therapists to talk to them about physical activity in their consultations. She said what we need to do is listen to therapists and help them incorporate activity advice in their everyday consultations.

To practice what they preach, the panel launched over 20 beach-balls across the room and set delegates the challenge to throw the balls from one end of the conference room to the other. This worked to great effect!

The session concluded with a fascinating insight into the unique challenges of physical activity barriers in Uganda, with a presentation by Night Atwongyeire. With pictures proving her point taken in Ugandan consultation rooms, exercise classes and school fields, Night presented case studies on how physical activity is encouraged in Uganda at every level of society.

Watch Night share her views with a delegate from the UK.