Amsterdam gets active

We know that exercise is essential: now physios from around the world have the chance to discuss the latest evidence with leaders in the field. Simon Crompton jogs along


Physical activity is at the heart of what physios do. So it’s fitting that the theme will permeate the International Congress of the World Confederation for Physical Therapy (WCPT), to be held in Amsterdam in June.

‘There will be a focus at the congress on activity and health, and activity as a means of reducing disability and promoting participation,’ says David Baxter from New Zealand, who will be contributing to a session on how to monitor physical activity levels among clinical populations.

‘Physical activity sits at the core of the profession,’ he says. ‘Evidence supports the fact that such interventions can be highly effective in a variety of conditions, but they are  at least in my view  under-utilised.’

The theme was no random choice. The WCPT’s international scientific committee planned the programme to appeal to a large number of delegates: physical activity was one of the topics identified from market research undertaken across the profession before planning started.

Delegates attending the congress, held at Amsterdam RAI convention centre and hosted by the Royal Dutch Society for Physical Therapy, will have a wide range of sessions to select from. The main programme is being dovetailed with related activities so that delegates can combine scientific sessions, such as focused symposia and discussion sessions, with practical courses and clinical visits within their area of interest. The theme of physical activity and health will be reflected in all the programme elements.

Baxter, who is Dean of the School of Physiotherapy at the University of Otago, New Zealand, will be contributing to an education session called ‘Physical activity for clinical populations: measurement and interventions’. This will be part of the satellite programme preceding the main congress. It has been developed by Suzanne McDonough from the University of Ulster.

Novel devices

‘We have been collectively working as an international research network focusing on physical activity as an intervention for a variety of clinical populations,’ says Baxter.

‘One of the core themes of our research to date has been the use of activity monitors  sophisticated pedometers  in free living to assess levels and changes of activity over time. Colleagues are also interested in pedometers as a means to increase walking in clinical populations, and novel devices for monitoring activity during sleep.

Other education sessions in the satellite programme will cover promotion of healthy lifestyles to reduce the disease burden, and physical fitness testing and training for older people.  

Angles on exercise

The theme of activity and health will be reflected in the main congress programme too. For example, in discussion panel sessions, WCPT president Marilyn Moffat will be chairing a session on ‘Evidence-based exercise prescription: raising the standard of delivery’.

Focused symposia will be the showpiece events, drawing together major figures to examine the latest advances on a number of important themes. These will look at several angles on activity, including exercise and cancer, fitness and physical activity in cerebral palsy, and global challenges.

Rik Gosselink from Belgium will speak at a focused symposium on ‘Early physical exercise and walking in ICU: accept the challenge!’ This will focus on the management of critically ill patients and examine the evidence that physical activity is beneficial at the very earliest stages of recovery  even exercising patients on a ventilator passively.

‘In the past, we waited until patients were stable, and could cooperate,’ says Professor Gosselink, professor of respiratory rehabilitation sciences at the Faculty of Kinesiology and Rehabilitation Sciences, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium. ‘Nowadays, we exercise them passively, sometimes using forms of stimulation such as electrotherapy.

‘We’re seeing physical therapists’ involvement in promoting physical activity widening. At one end of the scale we have patients who are very ill. Then we are working with people who are inactive for long periods because of chronic disease. And then we are working with active younger people who are achieving at the highest levels of competition.’

A focused symposium on the implications for physios of the global change towards sedentary behaviour will be led by Mark Tremblay, from the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute in Canada. Esko Malkia from the University of Jyvaskyla in Finland will present a new system for measuring and monitoring physical activity in physiotherapy practice. fl

Simon Crompton is editor of WCPT News

WCPT 2011 20-23 June Registration is open at or

Simon Crompton

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