How Focusing on Mental Health Improves Physical Therapy Outcomes

Can focusing on mental health improve outcomes in physical therapy?


This concept is challenging to grasp because the medical system often tries to attribute physical pain to a direct cause. However, it isn’t that simple and this is important for every physical therapist to understand.

Humans are complex and physical pain is influenced by several different factors. One of which is the brain.

An individual’s mental state has a large impact on their physical state and the effectiveness of physical therapy interventions.

Do not miss the latest episode of the CHP Spotlight Interview series with Dr. Kelly Forys Donahue and Dr. Danielle Miro from DC Health Psychology ( and to learn this and so much more!

Check out the full interview here.


Photo Credit

World Mental Health Day Observance” by United Nations Photo is marked with CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

How Professional Athletes Are Addressing Their Mental Health

“File:20140101 Kevin Love (cropped).JPG” by TonyTheTiger is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Health is a word that has a variety of meanings. Although physical health often comes to mind, mental health is equally important. Quality performance training and injury rehabilitation includes activities that improve both your physical and mental health to improve performance in sport.

What is Mental Health?

According to The Center for Disease Control, “Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.”

Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood through adulthood. Positive mental health allows people to better cope with stress, work productively, realize their full potential, and make more meaningful human connections.

Mental illness, such as depression, increases the risk for many physical health problems, particularly long-lasting conditions like diabetes, stroke, and heart disease. Furthermore, the presence of chronic conditions can increase the risk for mental illness.

Put simply — mental health is an aspect of overall health and well-being that cannot be overlooked.

The Impact of Mental Health On Performance

Mental health not only improves your quality of life, but it also improves performance — both in sport and in the workplace.

According to the CDC, poor mental health can negatively affect job performance, productivity, communication, physical capability, and job function. For example, someone could be in elite physical shape, but if their mental health is lagging, their performance will ultimately suffer.

Psychologists and mental health experts aren’t the only ones preaching the importance of mental health. Kevin Love, a professional basketball player for the Cleveland Cavaliers, has been very public with the mental health issues he’s dealt with throughout his career.

To help people strengthen their mental health, Love founded Koa, an online learning experience with therapist-led emotional fitness classes and 1:1 therapy. This growing community is helping people taking on real-life challenges and better prepare for the stresses of life.

“Mental health is an invisible thing, but it touches all of us at some point or another. It’s a part of life,” said Kevin Love of his struggle with mental health. Mental and physical health are equally important components of overall well-being. Love understands that to perform at the highest level, both his physical and mental health must be properly trained.

Surprising Benefits of Walking for Mental and Physical Health

“Morning Walk” by /\ltus is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

One important but often overlooked aspect of a healthy lifestyle and even injury rehabilitation is walking. Walking is a simple way to improve physical fitness and health while reducing the risk of various diseases.

The Benefits of Walking

Physical activity doesn’t need to be complicated. Although walking is often overlooked, science shows that putting one foot in front of the other can have some impressive mental and physical benefits.

  • It helps to maintain a healthy weight and trim body fat.
  • Increases energy levels and improves mood, memory, and sleep.
  • Reduces stress and tension in the body.
  • It eases joint pain and boosts immune system function.
  • Improves cardiovascular health and muscle endurance.
  • Reduced risk of common health problems such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

You may be asking yourself, “That sounds great, but how much should I be walking to reap all these benefits?”

How Many Steps Should You Get Per Day?

Walking is one of the best low-impact forms of exercise that can be done on a lunch break, while talking on the phone, or to get to your favorite coffee shop down the street.

Although the exact number of steps per day can vary based on age, health, and fitness goals, most experts recommend at least 10,000 steps per day. As a general rule of thumb, the faster, farther, and more frequently you walk, the greater the benefit you’ll experience.

By completing 10,000 steps per day, most adults can burn an extra 2,000–3,500 calories while also reaping the incredible benefits of additional cardiovascular exercise.

Not only is walking a great time to disconnect and unwind, but it will also improve your mental and physical health. 10,000 steps per day is a great goal for anyone looking to jumpstart a healthy lifestyle. However, if you want a more personalized approach, a physical therapist from our clinic in Bethesda can help!