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Family Nurse Practitioners (FNPs) provide a wide range of family-focused healthcare services to patients of all ages. They perform tasks like physical exams, maintaining patient records, and developing treatment plans. Among all these tasks, their biggest objective is promoting the overall wellbeing of their patients. This article will discuss why it is important for FNPs to promote fitness among their patients.
Preventing health issues
According to the WHO, physical activity is any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy expenditure. Popular physical activities include walking, cycling, and sports. The WHO also states that physical activity can prevent and manage non-communicable diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, some cancers, and diabetes.
Notably, physical exercise also benefits people with chronic diseases by enabling them to cope with symptoms and improve their overall health. For example, someone with chronic joint pain can resort to physical exercise to keep the joints stable. Low-impact aerobic exercises can also build back strength and muscles. For people with asthma, regular physical exercise helps control asthma attack frequency and intensity. FNPs can step in to educate patients on what kinds of physical fitness can benefit them depending on their health conditions.
Physical fitness plays a crucial role in weight management – the fundamental role being calorie expenditure. When a person is physically active, they burn more calories, creating a negative energy balance. That, combined with healthy eating habits, goes a long way in maintaining a healthy weight or losing some unneeded weight.
Additionally, regular physical activity can boost metabolism, helping patients burn more calories even at rest. Fitness also helps build and preserve lean muscle mass. Other benefits of physical fitness via weight management include appetite regulation and improved insulin sensitivity.
Consequently, patients who stick to a fitness plan reap the benefits of a healthy body weight. These include improved cholesterol levels, improved sex life, and more vitality. In some cases, the FNP might even be able to decrease or eliminate certain medications.
While physical activity has been proven to have numerous benefits, people all over the world are less active than they were decades ago. They have resorted to sedentary activities, such as playing video games and scrolling through social media. That is why FNP programs online pay close attention to integrating physical activity into the curriculum to ensure that practitioners join the workforce armed with the necessary knowledge. For example, students at Carson-Newman are taught how to help patients set goals, calculate their calorie needs, and advise them on effective exercises for their age and weight loss goals. Click here to find out more FNP programs and their learning structure.
Mental health enhancement
Physical activity has been consistently linked to improved mental health. Therefore, FNPs promoting fitness among their patients can also instigate enhanced mental wellbeing. For example, physical activity increases the production of endorphins, which are the brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters create a positive feeling, reducing the perception of pain. Physical exercise can also help alleviate anxiety, which is quite common, especially among people with chronic conditions. Another benefit of physical fitness regarding mental health is improved sleep quality. When patients sleep better, their bodies and minds can rest and recover.
Additionally, physical fitness is known to provide a wide range of cognitive benefits, thus acting as a protective factor against age-related cognitive conditions. Although physical fitness alone may not guarantee prevention, it significantly contributes to maintaining cognition, such as memory and concentration. According to Neuroscience News, cardio respiratory exercise improves gray matter volume in areas of the brain associated with age-related cognitive decline.
Community engagement and education
When FNPs promote fitness among their patients, they are more likely to have better social lives, which is an important part of a patient’s wellbeing. While the impact may vary based on the specific conditions and needs, it is never in vain. For example, an FNP can recommend group exercise programs that give patients an opportunity to come together, share experiences, and build a sense of community. As rehab patients work out, they can encourage each other in their respective recovery journeys, for example.
Physical activity can also be integrated into community events and health fairs that serve as a good opportunity for patients to interact with healthcare professionals. In the process, healthcare professionals can share educational content, such as lifestyle modifications and nutritional guidance. Patients with caregivers can attend these physical activity-focused workshops and seminars to cover topics such as strategies for staying active too.
How can FNPs promote fitness?
There are several ways FNPs can promote fitness. For example, they can routinely assess the physical activity levels of their patients during health assessments to draw attention to this facet of wellbeing. They can also discuss the importance of physical activity and encourage patients to find activities they enjoy. Furthermore, FNPs have a better understanding of the uniqueness of every patient’s condition. Therefore, they can better tailor fitness recommendations to patients, considering factors like age and existing health conditions.
If necessary, FNPs can refer patients to exercise specialists, such as physical therapists and certified physical trainers, to provide hands-on guidance. They can also provide resources and information, such as community-based programs within a particular neighborhood and online resources for patients with mobility challenges.
Amid all this, it’s incredibly important for FNPs to lead by example. When they prioritize physical fitness, they can serve as role models and inspire their patients to adopt healthier lifestyles and stick with them.
The role of FNP education
FNP education is designed to equip nursing students with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to coach patients toward physical fitness effectively. For example, FNPs should graduate with a solid understanding of exercise physiology to tailor recommendations to their patients accordingly. They are also trained in behavioral health and motivational techniques, which are extremely useful tools for all healthcare professionals. Consequently, FNPs can use these skills to motivate their patients and help them address barriers to adopting and maintaining a physically active lifestyle.