2 children in 80's sweatbands and workout gear flexing muscles ready to exercise

Is there one exercise that benefits the whole body?

Maybe your shoulder hurts. Maybe your back hurts. Maybe exercising hurts. Maybe you are feeling weak. Did you know you can see a physical therapist without a referral from another doctor?   

Physical therapists are charged with figuring out why you have a particular pain or injury. Sometimes it’s obvious: motor vehicle accident. Sometimes it’s not so obvious: long-time hip problem. Often the issue is not located where you’re feeling pain. Usually it’s a combination of how the body works together above and below the pain area.  

“A look at the whole entire body as a unit, how your neck will influence your knee and hip and more, is the core of physical therapy,” says Rami Said, DPT. “Physical therapists watch how people move and gauge if they have range of motion and strength in all different parts of their body, not just the area that feels hurt. We devote as much time as needed to each patient to figure out the root of the problem.”  

a physical therapist helping a person stretch her arm

Rami Said, DPT, at work. Photo: Columbia University Irving Medical Center.

Through observation, strength assessment, and more, Said and other therapists at Columbia Physical Therapy identify what each patient needs, then create individual, specialized plans. They work with other Columbia doctors and can accept some patients without referrals. 

“Giving patients dedicated, one-on-one time is what we teach our students and is the best way to treat patients and help them reach their goals,” says Said, who readjusted his academic and professional course after an injury. He has a master's degree in biomechanical engineering and a doctorate in physical therapy. “I found the joy of movement after an injury and wanted to help other people keep moving too,” he says.  

The joy of movement can increase your overall joy, not to mention strengthen your body against possible injury, illness, and stress. A perfect way to start the new year.

What's the question patients ask you the most? 

"What’s the one thing I can do?" And I always give the same answer: There is no way to answer that unless I have worked with you and I assess what your body can do. I might recommend similar exercises to different people, but the way they are done has to be tailored to a person’s ability. 

Every single person is different. That’s what we promote and celebrate in physical therapy.  

We have to ask: What's the one exercise we should do?   

If I have to pick one thing, it’s whatever keeps you moving the most. Movement keeps all systems of our body healthy: our brain, heart, lungs, muscles, bones, etc. 

We’re all busy. There’s no way most of us can fit every single part of our body into an exercise routine every single day, or even every week. The key is to find what you can do in the time frame you have. Whatever keeps you moving is best. And it’s not the same for everyone.  

What if you have not discovered the thing that will help keep you moving?  

Ask yourself: What do I enjoy doing, physically, that I can do without feeling any increased discomfort in any part of my body? That I will keep up on a regular basis? Do I love to walk? Do I love to ride a bike? Do I love to go up and down stairs? 

Also ask yourself: Who might I like to do that with? Motivation is vital to sustaining a routine. There's no better motivation than a friend.  

If you can't find these answers independently, see a physical therapist and ask what they think objectively you can or can't do.   

What’s the biggest obstacle to exercise?  

Time management.  

If you told me the only time you have to work out is from 6:01 to 6:02 in the morning, I would find something that you can do for one minute to get you going.   

If we can marry the physical things that you love to do with the time you’re able to do it, that’s the key to success.  


More information

To make an appointment with a physical therapist at Columbia Physical Therapy:

Rami Said, DPT, MEng, is an orthopedic clinical specialist, senior director of the Columbia University Physical Therapy Practice, and an instructor of rehabilitation and regenerative medicine in the Programs in Physical Therapy at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.