physical therapy outdoor rehabDear Jeremy:

My husband had knee surgery earlier this month and has completed most of his rehab program that his doctor suggested. However, outside of rehab he’s been sitting a lot more than he ever has in his life. I know that can’t be good for him.

He’s always been a real outdoorsman. I’m hoping now that the weather is improving here in the Columbus area, I can convince him to get outside with me and get moving again.

I’d like to encourage him to exercise so he keeps building on the work he did in his post-hospital rehab. Do you have any suggestions for outdoor activities my husband can use as physical therapy exercises?

Tracey

Using Outdoor Activity to Help Older Adults Grow Stronger

Dear Tracey:

It sounds like your husband has hit a plateau in his recovery, which is not uncommon.

Your plan to use the outdoors as a sort of “therapy gym” sounds like a great idea! We use the great outdoors in our post-hospital rehab and therapy activities when the weather allows for it.

Just getting him moving again can have a positive impact on his health. We know that sitting too much is bad for us. Sitting for long periods of time on a regular basis has been shown to increase blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and may even increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer.

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Related: Key Questions to Ask When Touring a Rehab Center

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Here are a few outdoor activities that double as physical therapy for knee surgery patients that you and your husband can enjoy together:

  • Walking Trails. Depending upon where in Columbus the two of you live, you can take advantage of the area’s nature trails. The Columbus Department of Recreation and Parks has a website that lists a description of each trail (asphalt, track, etc.) along with the distance. You and your husband could start small and work your way up to longer, more difficult trails. Walking helps build lower body strength, as well as overall strength. Both are great for fall prevention!
  • Gardening. Another warm weather activity the two of you can enjoy together is gardening. The activity is known for helping boost the mind, body and spirit. You might begin by planting a container herb garden or a few pots of annuals that bloom all summer long. If you find you both like it, consider having raised beds built in the yard or adding a new border along your house or fence. It’s an activity you can probably enjoy from May through October every year.
  • Bike Riding. As your husband’s strength improves, you could also add bike riding to an outdoor fitness regimen. It’s a commonly recommended activity for people who have had knee surgery, but it’s a good workout for anyone. Some of the benefits of biking for older adults include lower blood pressure, a decreased risk of diabetes and a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Swimming. As we make our way through yet another hot Ohio summer, it shouldn’t take much convincing before your husband is ready to take a cool dip in the pool. Unlike the other activities listed above, this is a non-weight-bearing exercise which makes it perfect for someone recovering from surgery. Swimming comes with great health benefits because even though you aren’t bearing your full weight, you’re still working hard to move through the water.

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Related: Physical Fitness Ideas for Older Adults in Central Ohio

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Before you get started with any of these suggestions, check with your husband’s doctor. In most cases, you should wait at least two weeks before engaging in more strenuous activities like biking or brisk walking.

Whatever outdoor activities you choose, remember to bring water with you to stay hydrated. You can stick with the usual “eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day” rule, or use this hydration equation of dividing your body weight in half and drinking that amount of ounces.

We’re getting into the hottest days of summer, so be sure to keep an eye out for dehydration, as well. Signs of dehydration include:

  • Extreme thirst
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion

One last note — in addition to staying hydrated, remember to apply sunscreen every four hours.

Good luck, Tracey. I hope you and your husband have a safe and healthy summer!

Sincerely,

Jeremy Evans

Director of RehabPost Hospital Rehab Questions Guide

J Evans November 2013

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