When Joe Tatta, PT, DPT, co-owned 15 physical therapy clinics in New York in 2012, he noticed that his clients were getting heavier and sicker. He conducted a survey of 3 of the clinics and found that 80% of the patients were overweight and 50% were obese. His findings mirrored a national rise in obesity rates among youth and adults from 1999 to 2014.1
Tatta became a board-certified nutrition specialist in 2014 and operates a cash-based private practice. "That started me thinking," he says. "While physical therapy is wonderful and physical therapists can successfully treat a lot of things, nutrition is largely missing from physical therapist education and patient care. When a person comes in with knee osteoarthritis, besides strengthening and increasing range of motion, we also can integrate nutrition elements to improve their care—whether we're talking about weight loss or reducing systemic inflammation."
Tatta isn't alone in his thinking. Physical therapists (PTs) across the country are seeking nutrition training to benefit patients. They recognize that a healthful diet complements physical therapy and can lead to better outcomes for people with chronic conditions such as obesity. The evidence shows that combining physical activity with a healthful diet leads to greater weight loss than do physical activity or diet alone.2