Physical Therapy as Exercise

Today’s blog comes from the pen of Bayla O’Brien, PT. Bayla treats residents at The Stafford; an Independent Living and Assisted Living boutique retirement campus located in Lake Oswego, Oregon. She recently took on role as fitness instructor for the community. Below is her account on how she fell into the position, how she integrates Physical Therapy into each fitness class, and her ongoing desire to improve the quality of life of everyone she treats. Accompanying the blog is a review of Bayla’s class written by a resident and participant of the exercise classes.

After the contract personal trainer left the Stafford to try his luck in Hollywood, Lucie Flood (Vitality Director) asked me if I could substitute for a month to give Stafford some time to look for a new instructor for their fitness and strength class. I said yes because I am very pro-wellness and prevention. I asked for them to record one of the outgoing trainer’s classes so I could follow his program and not cause too much of a stir with a big change.

As fate would have it, the DVD of his class was locked in an office on the day I was to lead the class. So, I showed up and apologized to the residents for not knowing the routine, and stated that I understood that some people are not comfortable with change. But, I said I would do my best to give them a good class and then review the DVD.

Well, much to my relief, I received a great review from the residents. So I never did look at the trainer’s class DVD!

I decided to do what I do best – Physical Therapy, but this time as a preventative fitness instructor. I combined my knowledge of seniors, balance, strength, yogic breath work, cardiovascular health, and normative data on fitness levels as related to fall risk. I put together a program that combined all areas for each class and vary the classes so boredom would not set in. I always inform the residents how an exercise relates to function and activities as well as the preventative benefits, most especially as related to falls. I scan the room and offer modifications for different levels of fitness and walk about to offer hands on correction to form so full benefit can be achieved without injury.

I am inspired by the resident’s commitment to wellness and how they encourage and cheer each other on. I have a blast teaching and love the chance to work up a sweat in the middle of my morning. I am also gratified by the tremendous positive response from the residents and staff at the Stafford.

I am currently putting together a fitness Nu-step and treadmill program. All this would not be possible without the assistance and support from Lucie Flood, Vitality Director. It is great to work in an environment that values me and believes in a supportive team structure!

Bayla O’Brien, PT

With the disease I have had for five years, I found the best therapy I have received is that given by a physical therapist compared to a personal trainer. Both are similar in many ways, but my physical therapist has helped me much more.

She comes to class with an agenda each day. She explains what affects our body parts and how to correct problems through exercise – such as an exercise to prevent shuffling as we age. She teaches the full thirty minutes. I think a physical therapist has a greater interest in our welfare and recognizes when additional equipment needs ordering and prepares handouts to re-enforce what is being taught. She encourages us to exercise at home and advises which exercises to do and when to do them.

At my last doctor’s appointment, I had improved so much since moving into the Stafford, my doctor asked what I had been doing differently. I told him about the exercising program I had been consistently doing at the Stafford. He told me my age-related disease is one of the few diseases that responds to exercising.

Overall, I feel the quality of exercise by a physical therapist is much more valuable than that of a personal trainer. -Stafford Resident