One therapy, which I have found very helpful recently is water aerobics. After some gentle prodding by my MD I decided to give it a try.
These gentle exercises help to increase flexibility. They have also been beneficial to balance. Water is great is providing support for the body. The disabilities of other members of my class are apparent out of the water. But, in the water, the disabilities diminish. Everyone seems able to complete exercises that would not be possible on dry land.
The exercises are in sets and focus on different body areas. I particularly find the leg and feet exercises helpful as I have problems with walking. Other exercises focus on arms, hands and torso. Participants are told not to do any exercise that causes pain. Some of the exercises are difficult for me. I have learned to adapt as needed. For example I cannot stand in the water without support therefore I do the exercises at the edge of the pool. One exercise has us moving our arms backwards as if doing the backstroke. I hold on to the edge of pool and move one arm, and then I turn around and hold on with my other hand and move the second arm. Of course, the exercise modifications would vary for different people with different problems. I also use a safety belt to increase buoyancy.
In addition to the regular exercises, the pool is available for a half an hour before and after class. Usually I am able to arrive a little early and stay a little late. During that time I walk laps across the pool. I use two noodles for balance. Noodles are styrofoam tubes about 4 feet long and 3 inches in diameter. They are curved. I cannot walk across the pool unaided, but using the noodles as a flotation device I am able to balance myself as I walk. Walking across means that I am at the same depth. I find walking in water at about chest depth to be most helpful. Water, which is shallower, provides less support.
I have found that the exercises have not only helped my flexibility and balance, but have also helped my endurance. I am able to walk further.
There are classes in some locations, which are designed especially for stroke survivors. In my case, there is no such class easily accessible. I found a class offered by my local park district designed primarily for those with arthritis. Another place to look for classes is your local YMCA. There are people in the class with a variety of physical problems. It is great to watch everyone’s progress. One class member, who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, told me when she first came to class she could not walk. She came with a friend who helped her get in the water and do the exercises. Now you would never guess that at one time she could not walk.
I just began my fourth round of an 8-week cycle. It is, of course, possible to take only one eight week session. However, it became obvious to me that the consistency of the exercises would help me to recover further. In some respects the classes are a social occasion. We meet three times a week, do the exercises, share stories and encourage each other’s progress.
I would highly recommend that you try it. What have you got to lose?
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