Annual physical therapy exams aren't as common as a yearly physical or a regular checkup with the dentist. However, research shows that moving well is important, so an annual check to find small changes in strength, balance, coordination, or range of motion makes sense.
An annual PT exam is quick and easy. They usually include a history of your injuries, a complete health history, and a review of your movement goals - do you want to run a marathon or just get on and off the floor easier when you play with your grandkids? Your physical therapist will then assess your strength, balance, coordination, flexibility, and more. What happens next depends on the results of the exam. You may be good to go for another year, get a few updates to your exercise program, have a short course of physical therapy, or receive a referral to another medical provider if they find something that physical therapy won't help with.
There is strong evidence suggesting that movement is a valuable predictor of future health and resilience against disease. Moving well can keep you healthier and help you live longer. There are a few simple tests that that show the power of movement when it comes to predicting future health:
First is gait velocity, which is simply how fast you walk. Studies have shown that if your typical walking speed is over 1 m/s or 3.3 ft/s, you're likely able to complete typical daily activities independently. You're also less likely to be hospitalized and less likely to have adverse events like falls.
Another series of studies suggest that if you can go from standing to sitting on the floor and back to standing without using your hands, you're a lot less likely to die than someone who can't. It's called the sitting-rising test. You can find the instructions and examples with a quick internet search.
Notice that both gait velocity and the sitting-rising test aren't specific to any one thing. The risk of hospitalization in the gait velocity studies was hospitalization for any reason. Death in the sitting-rising studies was death from anything. So science says that moving well is incredibly important to your overall health. It's also important for your quality of life. Considering that moving well impacts your quality of life both now and later, having a regular PT check up to find problems early is one of the best things you can do for yourself this year.