Adapted Fitness & Sports
Resources and Organizations
National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD)
The NCHPAD is a resource center on health promotion through increased participation in physical and social activities. NCHPAD serves people with physical, cognitive, and sensory disabilities and activities include fitness and aquatics, recreation and sports, and adaptive equipment training. NCHPAD's features a variety of resources and services related to physical activity, health promotion, and disability. More information can be found at www.nchpad.org.
National Sports Center for the Disabled (NSCD)
The NSCD is a Colorado-based company that offers adaptive in-person programs for skiing, camping, river rafting, rock climbing, shooting sports, sailing, therapeutic horseback riding, and water sports. The organization also offers virtual programming, both live and on-demand. These programs include adaptive workouts, tech talks, environmental outreach, and more. To learn more about the NSCD or to start participating in some of their virtual programs, please visit NSCD.org.
National Ability Center (NAC)
The NAC offers sports, recreation, and educational programs for all individuals. They adapt recreational and outdoor adventure activities to be inclusive of all ability levels. The current topics of their virtual programs include: camping, hiking, and cycling. To view their virtual programs, please visit discovernac.org.
Move United is a national non-profit organization that provides sports and recreation opportunities to individuals with disabilities. It's community-based chapter network allows programs to be adapted based on the needs of different communities. Some sports offered by Move United include alpine and Nordic skiing, snowboarding, biathlon, kayaking, water skiing, sailing, scuba, surfing, rafting, outrigger canoeing, fishing, hiking, golf, athletics, archery, cycling, running/wheeling, rock climbing, equestrian and others. Their website also offers information about adaptive equipment for each sport. For more information, please visit moveunitedsport.org.
Podcast: Adaptive Sports: Limitless Opportunities
Shana Harrington, PT, PhD, SCS, MTC, is a Paralympic swimmer who has been involved with adaptive sports for twenty years. In this podcast, she discusses her take on adaptive sports and the benefits of participating. You can download the podcast here.
Stroke Rehab provides many resources related to rehabilitation and fitness following stroke. To learn about home exercise equipment that may be useful for you in your fitness journey after stroke, you can visit their page here. Another option for fitness following stroke is to find an adaptive fitness center or gym. These facilities are accessible to individuals with disabilities and individuals in a wheelchair and they offer equipment that can be used by stroke survivors. Stroke Rehab offers a list of some adaptive fitness centers and gyms around the country, which can be found here.
Types of Adaptive Sports and Equipment
Types of Adaptive Sports and Equipment
- Improves stability and balance for skiers
- Three track (pictured above) and four track skiing styles are best for individuals with hemiplegia.
- Attach to the tip of each ski, allowing the skis to remain parallel or in a wedge position.
- Also allows the skier's stronger leg to help control the movement of the more impaired leg when skiing
- Helps you hold onto your golf club during your swing if you have limited hand function
- Helpful for gripping other sports tools such as a bat, tennis racket, or pool stick
- Allows you to retrieve a golf ball without having to bend down and reach
- Useful for those with balance issues or arm range of motion deficits
- Allows you to place the tee in the ground, golf ball on the tee without bending, and hit the ball with the same device.
- This is also an ideal golf club to use while seated.
Adaptive Water Sports
- The Velto Adaptive Surf System allows individuals with limited mobility to control body movements (with leg support) and maintain balance on the surf board.
- Most surfers with disabilities are highly trained and skilled.
- One should not engage in surfing without proper training and supervision.
Adaptive Baseball and Softball
If you want to practice on your own or join a league, sources recommend:
- Hit off a tee if you struggle with coordination and proper timing.
- Strap a mitt to your affected hand with an ace bandage for catching
- Use mitts and balls with velcro or manually putting velcro on equipment.
- For safety, start small by playing catch
- More information about the specifics of competitive adaptive softball and adaptive softball wheelchairs can be found here.
- Most players use a sports wheelchair. Players are not necessarily bound to a wheelchair, but may have disabilities that impact walking or running.
There are options for one armed manual wheelchair propulsion:
- With power soccer, players use power wheelchairs to play the game.
- Others use a sports wheelchair, crutches, or stand.
Other more inexpensive options include:
- Use a brightly colored ball for easier tracking
- Use a foam ball or deflated ball for easier ball control
- Playing on a smaller field with well-defined barriers
- Use a goal target that makes noise to add another sensory feature that improves the ease of play.
- Sources also recommend using walking instead of running.
Adaptive Partner Sports
Adapt the Game or Equipment
- Make the court size smaller
- Use a larger and softer ball
- Use a racquet with a shorter handle and larger paddle area
- Use sports tape to secure the racquet onto your hand
Adapt Your Technique
- Use the EZ-Bridge so you can use one hand to exert the power to hit the ball. This device has wheels for easy mobilization and supports the pool cue by the tip so only one hand is required.
- Directions for making your own cue stick cradle can be found here on page 21 along with other DIY ideas for adaptive equipment for various activities.
- Adaptive cuffs can be used to hold the pool stick with you affected hand.
Adaptive Table Tennis
- Table tennis can be played seated or in standing.
- Usually played with one hand - use your unaffected hand
- According to a research presentation, table tennis can be beneficial for both physical and cognitive rehabilitation.
Play using your affected hand and compensate for reduced grasp:
Adaptive Leisure Sports
- Played in a wheelchair or in standing with a bowling ball ramp if you struggle with arm movements, strength, trunk stability.
- Use a grip handle bowling ball that has a retractable handle for easier grip on the ball. Additionally,
- Use a ball pusher to push the ball on the ground for people that may have limited shoulder movement.
- Use a boccia ball ramp to roll the ball down the court.
- Use the boccia ball retriever, which extends to pick up the balls, if you have limited arm mobility or balance or use a wheelchair.
- To learn more about finding an adaptive boccia ball organization near you to join and practice, contact USA Boccia.
Adaptive Horseback Riding
- Use a lift or ramp to get on the horse
- Use a saddle with a raised back for more trunk support
- Use customized stirrups for better balance
- Use cushioned saddle to prevent pressure sores
- Adaptive horseback riding is a sport that should be done with supervision from a professional at a facility or camp near you, in CT.
Adaptive Biking or Cycling
Riding a bicycle is a great form of cardio that can benefit your overall health after having a stroke.
- For people with limited balance, using a tri-wheeled bicycle or
- Use a bicycle seat with a high back may help maintain an upright position.
- Bike with a tandem bicycle, where you and a loved one can both benefit from the activity, for those with limited leg movement, balance issues, or a visual impairment.
- Use a steering damper to limit unwanted movement at the handlebars for increased stability. Click here to see a video of Tom Wheeler discussing his modifications and techniques for better competitive mountain biking with one arm.
- Any intense or competitive sport post stroke should be addressed by a professional.
The safest option for adaptive yoga for people with limited balance and mobility is typically chair yoga. All chair yoga poses are adapted to be completed in a seated position, requiring much less balance, core stability, and coordination, while still achieving a good stretch, effective breathing, and inner peace. Yoga promotes body awareness and a mind-body connection, which is crucial for effective rehabilitation and stress management.
Consider these chair yoga adaptations for hemiplegia
- Use two handed techniques such as cradling your affected arm with your unaffected arm or guiding your affected arm through the motions with your unaffected arm. Also,
- Use the hook method by scooping your affected leg with your unaffected leg at the ankle can help guide your legs through yoga stretches.
- Use a table or the arms of your chair for balance or support of your affected arm is also an adaptation that promotes safety for those with balance and motor impairments.
- For ideas for adaptive yoga click here, with consideration to the adaptations listed above.
- To find seated yoga classes in your area click here and for a virtual yoga class, click here.
Dance requires movement from the whole body, which makes it an excellent tool for rehabilitation that is motivating for many people.
Adaptations for dance are similar to those of adaptive yoga (above), for instance,
- Dance can be completed in a seated, standing, or stationary position if you have limitations in balance.
- There are several adaptive dance studios all around the U.S., including Tap Fever Studios, which offer virtual adaptive dance.
- A dancer with CP reports a main part of his dance routine is controlling his breathing. Breath control is a major component in your ability to control your tone and spasticity.
- Make sure you stretch!
Adaptive Sailing and Boating
Safety Adaptations for Sailing and Boating
- Install chairs with lateral supports and a high back
- Install a seatbelt for those with limited trunk control
- Use nonslip bath mats or surfaces to place on the floor of the boat for fall prevention
More information about adaptive sailing can be found here.