Have a Therapeutic Summer!
Alison Lichy, PT, DPT, NCS
Owner and practicing physical therapist at NeuroPT in Falls Church, Virginia
The long days of summer are so inviting.
For stroke survivors, outdoor sports provide opportunities to challenge yourself both physically and mentally due to an unpredictable and changing environment. Meeting new challenges can be empowering to a survivor. Here are some fun outdoor activities that also have great therapeutic value.
Golf is a great social and therapeutic activity. From putting around or getting out on the course, golf involves balance and coordination of the upper extremities, trunk and legs. If walking or standing is a challenge, many public golf courses have adaptive golf carts. Just plan ahead, these carts need to be reserved to be delivered to the course you choose.
Horseback riding is a favorite outside activity for many. Survivors have reported feeling a difference in their walking after riding, specifically getting a great stretch in the hips and decreased tone in the leg muscles. Some report the weight shifting of the horse and the exercise of their core while riding improved their balance and alignment with walking.
Cycling is growing in popularity and trails are being made more accessible. There are new options for power-assist wheels that can make cycling more feasible and fun. A quick internet search on ‘power assisted tricycles’ or ‘power assisted bicycles’ will bring up a number of sites with information or that sell these cycles. Cycling is a fun cardiovascular activity that can be enjoyed with friends and family. Local chapters of the following organizations often provide adapted cycles for participants:
Adaptive water sports
For those who enjoy the water, canoeing, kayaking and sailing are great outdoor therapeutic activities. These water sports are great for balance and encouraging whole body coordination. Often local groups can assist in instruction and adaptations as needed. The following organizations offering theses services:
In the Baltimore area, Baltimore Adapted Recreation & Sports
Tai chi and yoga
Tai chi and yoga are great activities that can be practiced inside and outdoors. Both can be done sitting or standing while focusing on breathing, balance, coordination, posture and the positive flow of energy. A major difference between tai chi and yoga is the fluidity of the movement. Tai chi movements are constantly moving from one posture to the next. Yoga focuses on the slow flow of movements from one position to the next. The focus of yoga is maintaining and holding each pose. A 2012 study reported benefits in yoga that include improved balance, improved quality of life, reduced fear of falling and increased independence with daily activities.
Bocce ball is growing in popularity and is now a Paralympics sport. Bocce ball is a great team sport that can be played from a wheelchair or standing. There is strategy to the game, which can be mentally stimulating along with being physically challenging.
Disabled Sports USA is a resource for more information on fitness. This website provides links to local chapters or you can search by specific sports.
National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability has information on nutrition and physical activity for people with disabilities.
This information is provided as a resource to our readers. The tips, products or resources listed have not been reviewed or endorsed by the American Stroke Association.