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
Disabled Sports USA • Adaptive Adventures
MedStar National Rehabilitation Network
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:
Disabled Paddlers Association
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
Have a Therapeutic Summer!
By Alison Lichy, PT, DPT, NCS | Alexandria, Virginia
Owner and practicing physical therapist at NeuroPT in Falls Church, Virginia