Date of Paper/Work


Type of Paper/Work

Research Project

Degree Name

Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)


Physical Therapy

First Advisor

MarySue Ingman

Second Advisor

Christina Anderson


Background and Purpose: Patients with neurological pathologies have been found to be less likely to engage in personal health behaviors than the general population. This predisposes them to acquire secondary chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Studies suggest that this population may be underserved in regards to the promotion of health behaviors. Literature is lacking regarding neurological patients’ perspectives of the physical therapist’s role in promoting personal health behaviors. The purpose of this study was to investigate the perceptions of patients with neurological disability regarding the physical therapist’s role in promoting the personal health behaviors of physical activity, healthy weight management, smoking cessation, and fruit and vegetable consumption.

Methods: A convenience sample of patients from a Minneapolis area outpatient rehabilitation center was obtained by physical therapist referral. Surveys were distributed to patients who met the inclusion criteria. The survey obtained information regarding the patient’s perception of what the role of the physical therapist should be for each personal health behavior. Data were analyzed using Microsoft Excel 2013.

Results: Thirty-five surveys met inclusion criteria and were analyzed. Respondents’ demographics were as follows: mean age of 52.3±16.7years, 62.9% were male, average BMI of 28.1 ± 6.6 and 73.5% reported having a neurological condition for at least 3 years. A key finding was that 76% of respondents believe that physical therapists should suggest ways to maintain a healthy weight, however it was only addressed with 37% of the sample. The majority of respondents believed physical therapists should advise them about physical activity (88.6%), smoking cessation (65%), and weight management (83%).

Conclusion: Overall, respondents with chronic neurological conditions in an outpatient setting who were surveyed expressed the belief that physical therapists should advise them in the personal health behaviors of physical activity, weight management, smoking cessation, and fruit and vegetable intake. Although the majority of respondents believed weight management should be discussed in their therapy sessions, only 37% reported their physical therapist addressed their weight. This finding suggests a potential opportunity for physical therapists to have conversation with their patients on healthy weight management.