How To Increase Your Patients’ Lifespan

As Doctors of Physical Therapy, we are not just therapists; we are vital players in the broader healthcare system. We have a unique position to influence our patients’ overall health and longevity.

Our role as primary care providers of musculoskeletal health extends beyond treating injuries and managing pain. It encompasses a proactive approach to identifying and managing risk factors that can reduce both lifespan and healthspan.

Globally, chronic conditions like cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and heart disease are significant threats to life expectancy. While complete prevention of these conditions is not always possible, physical therapists have the tools and knowledge to make them less likely for many patients.

Here are three key strategies to help increase your patients’ lifespan and enhance their healthspan.

1. Promote Aerobic Endurance and Efficiency

Aerobic Endurance Encourage your patients to engage in steady, prolonged cardiovascular training. Activities such as walking, cycling, and swimming not only boost heart health but also improve overall stamina and endurance. Aerobic exercise is fundamental in reducing the risk of heart disease and improving lung function, which are critical for long-term health.

Aerobic Efficiency Incorporate high-intensity interval training (HIIT) into your patients’ routines. HIIT workouts push the upper limits of VO2 max, enhancing the body’s ability to utilize oxygen efficiently. This type of training is highly effective in improving cardiovascular fitness and metabolic health, which are essential for reducing the risk of chronic diseases.

2. Focus on Strength Training

Building Muscle Mass and Strength Strength training is crucial for combating sarcopenia, the age-related loss of muscle mass and strength. Design programs that emphasize progressive overload to help your patients build and maintain muscle mass. Strength training not only supports musculoskeletal health but also enhances metabolic function, which can help prevent diabetes and other metabolic disorders.

Preventing Injury Ensure that strength training programs are tailored to each patient’s ability and progression to avoid injury. Proper technique and appropriate load management are essential to maximize benefits and minimize risks.

3. Enhance Stability

Improving Stability Stability training enhances the body’s ability to harness, decelerate, and stop force effectively and safely. It involves the subconscious control of movement, ensuring efficient force transmission through the body. Exercises that improve balance and proprioception, such as yoga, Pilates, and specific stability drills, are key to reducing fall risk and enhancing functional independence, especially in older adults.

Subconscious Control Teaching patients to subconsciously control their movements helps in preventing injuries and improving overall movement efficiency. This, in turn, supports better performance in daily activities and reduces the likelihood of debilitating injuries.

The Impact of Exercise on Longevity

Exercise is the most effective intervention for delaying death and preventing cognitive and physical decline. According to Peter Attia’s “Outlive,” a staggering 77 percent of the U.S. population does not exercise regularly. However, even small changes can make a significant difference. For instance, increasing from zero weekly exercise to just 90 minutes per week can reduce the risk of dying from all causes by 14%. Consistent exercise has been shown to add up to a decade to one’s life compared to a sedentary lifestyle.


As physical therapists, you have the expertise to make a profound impact on your patients’ lives. By promoting aerobic endurance and efficiency, strength, and stability, you can help them live longer, healthier, and more fulfilling lives.

Encourage regular exercise and design individualized programs that address these key areas. Remember, your guidance and support can lead to transformative changes in your patients’ health and longevity.

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