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Monthly Archives: December 2015

Walking – An Effective Tool for Weight Loss and Maintenance

The simplest exercise available is placing one foot in front of the other and walking. Because this is something we do every day, it is often overlooked as a valuable tool for weight loss. A 140-pound person walking at a moderate pace for 20 minutes will burn approximately 92 calories while increasing heart rate, thus making walking a very effective form of exercise.

If you are just beginning a walking program, try warming up with slow-to-moderate five-minute walking sessions, increasing the pace for a total of 30 minutes of walking. Do this three times per week, and soon it will be fairly easy to increase your pace and endurance to a brisk walk, defined as walking approximately 3.5 miles per hour. To add intensity, involve the arms by keeping them at a 90-degree angle and pumping them up and down with each step. For more of a challenge, try walking on sand or uphill. This will significantly increase your heart rate for a bonus cardio workout.

If the idea of walking seems uninspiring, try these suggestions:


  • Invite a friend or take a dog along. This will help pass the time and enliven your step.
  • Consider joining a walking group. A fun and social way to exercise, groups can be found in most towns and cities across the country. When the weather gets less agreeable, groups often walk in shopping malls.
  • Wear comfortable walking shoes and make sure to keep hydrated, taking a sip of water every 10 minutes.
  • For motivation, use a small pedometer that displays calories burned, distance covered and minutes walked.


Aim for a one- to two-pound weight loss goal per week. Statistics show that weight loss occurs more rapidly during the first few weeks of a new walking program. Although results may taper off afterward, stick with it. Keep those legs moving, and watch those pounds slowly melt away—safely and effectively.


You’re Never Too Old for Weight Lifting

When someone talks about weight lifting, perhaps you picture young, muscled athletes lifting outrageously heavy barbells over their heads. But today, weight lifting, or strength training as it is sometimes called, is for everyone. Studies have shown that moderate weight lifting produces significant health benefits in older individuals, even if they do not begin exercising with weights until their 70s, 80s or even 90s.

After age 30, most people begin to lose muscle mass. Strength noticeably declines beginning around age 50. This was once thought to be inevitable, but we now know that these losses can be reversed. Some of the proven benefits of strength training for older individuals include:


  • Increased strength and flexibility
  • Better balance and coordination
  • Improved cardiovascular health
  • Increased bone density


These benefits add up to a decreased risk of falling, improved physical and emotional health, and a more independent lifestyle.

Most people, even frail individuals with chronic health problems, can exercise with weights. Just talk to us before you begin. Exercising should be done under the supervision of a physical therapist or health professional familiar with the American College of Sports Medicine’s strength-training guidelines for older individuals. After an initial evaluation, we can develop a personalized weight-lifting program based on your current level of fitness. Sessions for older individuals are usually 20 to 30 minutes long, two or three times per week on nonconsecutive days.

Strength training can be done with free weights or weight machines. Weight machines are often preferred because they offer more body support and allow weight to be increased in smaller increments. Many health and fitness facilities and community centers have special programs designed for novice, older weight lifters. Fitness gains often can be seen within a few weeks, and lifestyle benefits within a few months. Most importantly, it is never too late to start!

If you are considering starting a new weight lifting regimen, Western Berks Physical Therapy can help you design a safe and goal-oriented weight lifting program. Please feel free to contact us to learn more.


Winter Activities Foster Year-round Fitness

The urge to “hibernate” in winter is strong, even for us humans. However, you are better off staying in shape than struggling to catch up come spring. And winter exercise benefits more than just physical fitness; it is also a powerful antidote for the winter blues.

Your options for winter workouts vary by interest and location. People in warmer, sunnier climates have the outdoor advantage over those in regions with cold temperatures and snow. But many people find being outdoors in winter exhilarating. Snow shoeing, ice skating and cross country skiing—regarded as one of the best cardiovascular workouts—are among winter’s unique outdoor activities.

Winter exercise is not without its risks and challenges. In below-freezing weather, frostbite and hypothermia are of concern, while rainy climates make it challenging to stay both warm and dry. Make certain that you wear the right clothing to protect your skin and maintain appropriate body heat. And do not skimp on the warm-up exercises! Your muscles take longer to loosen up in colder weather, making injury more likely without adequate preparation.

If outdoor exercise in winter weather is not to your liking, shift your focus indoors. Head to the gym or health club for sports, fitness classes and workouts. Many facilities also have indoor pools. Swimming is an excellent year-round activity that is gentle on joints and enhances cardiovascular health, strength and flexibility. In many communities, walkers take to the indoor shopping malls in winter. Local walking clubs, health clubs and some malls themselves sponsor mall-walking programs.

In all seasons, varying your activities—cross training—will reduce the likelihood of injury and help prevent boredom. Focus alternately on strength and endurance, flexibility and balance, and skills specific to your favorite sports or fitness activities. Aim for 4 to 6 weekly sessions of 30 to 45 minutes each.

Western Berks Physical Therapy can design a winter fitness program to facilitate your specific fitness goals while keeping you in shape and injury-free.


Rehabilitation After Multiple Fractures to the Pelvis

Pelvic fractures are complicated by nature. The pelvis is actually made up of three “rings” of bone: one major, large ring and two smaller rings. While a mild fracture of the pelvis can heal on its own, more serious fractures like those sustained in automobile accidents often require surgery and intensive physical therapy rehabilitation.

Because the bones of the pelvis help support the weight of your upper body and protect important abdominal organs like the intestines and bladder, as well as major nerves and blood vessels, it is especially important that the bones be properly aligned. If your injury required surgery, after a period of rest you will most likely be referred to us for rehabilitation.

The major goal of pelvic fracture rehabilitation is to get you back to your pre-injury level of function. It can be a slow process at the beginning, with an individually designed physical therapy program involving a gradual progression of weight-bearing and strengthening exercises. After about 8 weeks of weight-bearing work, exercises will focus on enhancing strength and flexibility, with the addition of a stationary bike or treadmill to your routine.

The difficulty of the rehabilitation will depend on the nature of your injury and your general health, but be aware that the complex structure of the pelvis can make this a complicated and often arduous process, taking anywhere from 6 months to 1 year. Be patient: Proper alignment of the pelvic bones during healing is vital to your successful recovery, as is restoration of strength and flexibility.


Regaining Normal Rotator Cuff Function After Surgery

Surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff is often a last-resort treatment, one that requires extensive rehabilitation to return your shoulder to full range of motion without pain. For most people, full recovery will take from 4 to 6 months, depending upon the reason for the surgery, the type of surgery and the patient’s level of activity.

No two people are exactly alike, and neither are two recoveries from rotator cuff surgery. For one thing, a rotator cuff tear is more common in the older population. The muscles and tendons of the shoulder lose their elasticity and are often damaged performing repetitive daily activities. In addition, the reason one person needs rotator cuff surgery may be completely different from the reason another needs it. Athletes, especially those participating in repetitive overhead sports, such as baseball, football, tennis, squash or lacrosse, often incur rotator cuff injuries. While less common than repetitive use injuries, trauma, often the result of falling on an outstretched hand, can also tear the rotator cuff tendons, necessitating surgery.

The type of surgery performed, along with the patient’s general health, will have a dramatic impact on the length of recovery. If an active, healthy athlete with good muscle tone (and high-quality tissues) has a minimally invasive repair for a small tear caused by a one-time sports injury, recovery time could be 3 to 6 months. Alternatively, if the rotator cuff problem is degenerative in nature, due to years of overuse and strain, the resulting large, complex tear might necessitate an open repair, which involves far more extensive surgery. If so, the recovery period could be much longer, perhaps even up to a year. Scar tissue, smoking, poor nutrition or other health issues can also slow down recovery progress.

Physical therapy plays an important role in recovery from rotator cuff surgery. Western Berks Physical Therapy can develop an individualized physical therapy program, instruct you how to perform the exercises and advance them at a comfortable rate to help you regain your shoulder’s range of motion and reduce your pain.


We Are Hiring at Western Berks Physical Therapy

Western Berks Physical Therapy is currently accepting resumes for full and part time Physical Therapists. Therapists who strive to deliver manual care and spend 1:1 time with patients are encouraged to apply.

Join our team and receive: Competitive Pay, Health Care Benefits, 401K, Generous Continuing Education Allotment, Friendly and Fun Work Environment

To take advantage of this wonderful opportunity, please contact Western Berks Physical Therapy at 610.589.2263. Visit us online at and download an application. A resume’ and/or application can also be faxed to 610.589.2232.

Enjoy life and your career!


Weight Training For Adolescent Girls – Is It Safe?

An important part of strength training, weight lifting provides many health benefits, along with increased strength and endurance in athletics. Because girls produce much less testosterone than boys during puberty, your daughter’s muscles will enlarge a little, but most of her increased strength will come from training more nerve cells to fire when a muscle contracts, thus making the contractions more efficient.

The age when children can safely begin a weight-training regimen has been controversial, but such exercises can be safe and effective if proper training techniques and safety precautions are followed. Parents should also consider the child’s stage of physical development. Because skeletally immature bodies cannot handle the stress of strength-training exercises, younger children may experience more frequent injuries to the wrist and spine.

Any good strength-training program for adolescents should


  • require a medical exam before training starts;
  • be supervised by a qualified professional since most accidents happen when using home equipment or in an unsupervised setting;
  • teach proper lifting techniques using low resistance and require that they be mastered before allowing significant weight to be added;
  • emphasize a total workout of core and extremity muscle exercises;
  • avoid explosive and rapid lifting exercises; and
  • include a 10- to 15-minute warm-up and cool-down component.


Furthermore, the American Academy of Pediatrics specifically recommends that young people avoid competitive weight lifting, power lifting and bodybuilding until they have reached their full adult height and skeletal maturity.

Before your daughter begins a weight-training program, Western Berks Physical Therapy can instruct her in the proper form and technique. Such “basic training” will help prevent injuries, encourage safe and appropriate athletic development, and produce a better performing athlete in the long run.


When Backing Up the Car Becomes a Pain in the Neck

That pain you feel when turning your head while backing up your car is probably due to tightness in the muscles of your neck and upper back, often the result of years of poor posture. To improve your posture, keep your neck in a “neutral” position, with your chin more tucked in than pushed forward. When you walk, stand or sit, pretend that a string is pulling you from the top of your head, elongating your neck and spine.

At your computer, adjust your chair so the monitor is at eye level, the chair supports your arms and your knees are a little lower than hip level. While driving, adjust the seat so that you are neither too far nor too close to the steering wheel and pedals. Use a lumbar roll or support for your lower back when you drive or sit in your computer chair. Avoid reading in bed propped up on pillows, which often thrusts the head and neck forward. While sleeping, use a pillow that does not place your head at an angle that is too high or too low. Lie on your side with your bottom leg straight and your top leg bent or resting on a pillow placed between your legs.


In addition, you can perform the following exercises at home, preferably upon waking and again just before bedtime:


  • Shoulder roll: With arms and neck relaxed, slowly roll both shoulders in a circular motion, front to back. Repeat 5 times, then another 5, rolling back to front.
  • Chin tuck: From a neutral position, gently pull your chin down and in toward your neck. Return to the original position. Repeat 10 5 times.
  • Head turns: From a neutral position, slowly turn your head to the right; then return slowly to the original position. Repeat 5 times, and then 5 more times to the left.


Once medical causes, like arthritis, have been ruled out, we can make sure you are performing the exercises correctly and modify them as necessary. If weakness is identified, we may provide specific strengthening exercises. Recovery from neck pain can take a few weeks to a few months. Following the exercise regimen Western Berks Physical Therapy designed for you will alleviate stiffness and discomfort and restore flexibility, strength, stability and range of motion in your neck.


Add Strength Training to Your Yoga Practice

Add Strength Training to Your Yoga Practice - Western Berks Physical Therapy

Many people practice yoga for relaxation. Yoga can also help you tone your muscles, and, at first, it can increase your strength. But eventually you will need something beyond yoga to build muscle tissue. That is when adding a strength- training program makes sense.

To shape up and get fit, building muscle tissue is essential. As we age, we start to lose muscle. For instance, because of dipping hormone and activity levels, a woman typically starts losing about half a pound of muscle a year during her perimenopausal years. Upon reaching menopause, women can lose as much as a pound of muscle a year.

Strength training builds muscles in your trunk, arms and legs and muscle tissue burns more calories than fat even if you are just sitting around. The more muscle in your body, the higher your natural levels of human growth hormone and metabolism will be. Researchers have found that regular strength training raises metabolism by about 15%. Strength training also increases the strength of tendons and ligaments and improves the flexibility of joints. Another important benefit is increased bone strength, which is especially important for women. By increasing bone density, the risk of fractures for women between 50 and 70 years of age is reduced.

A twice-a-week program can replace 5 years’ worth of lost muscle in just a few months. A basic strength-training program might include such exercises as squats, wall push-ups, knee extensions, knee curls, abdominal crunches and bicep curls and triceps pulldowns, which are performed with weights.

A strength-training program can nicely complement a yoga program, resulting in improved physical and mental health and well-being. Before you begin any weight-training regimen, however, Western Berks Physical Therapy can design a program that allows you to safely achieve your goals.