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How Recreational Therapy Activities Can Make You Healthier

February 25, 2020

Recreational therapy activities are not all fun and games. They provide a variety of positive health outcomes for people of all ages with physical disabilities and psychiatric disorders. If you suffer a serious injury, or perhaps are having difficulty recovering from a surgery, recreational therapy might be right for you.

The American Therapeutic Recreation Association defines recreational therapy as a means for you to recover from a physical injury or mental illness. Recreational therapy activities can teach you how to live with your disability. At the same time, they enhance your quality of life by reducing the isolation and helping you to participate in leisure activities.

Since February is Recreational Therapy Month, let’s take a look at some of the activities that are helping people live better.

What is Recreational Therapy?

Recreational therapists use activities that will not only help you meet your physical and emotional needs (if you’re living with an illness or disability), but it can also help you develop skills for daily living.

It can be used to help people with head injuries or musculoskeletal issues like spina bifida and muscular dystrophy. Recreational therapy can even be used to help people with conditions that cause communication barriers.

It’s different from physical therapy, in the sense that you would use physical therapy to rehabilitate an injury and some older people even use it to stay fit and active.

Recreational therapy services will help you reduce depression, stress and anxiety, recover basic motor functioning and reasoning abilities, build confidence, and socialize effectively so that they can enjoy greater independence and reduce or eliminate the effects of their illness or disability. They’ll benefit you physically, mentally and emotionally.

Types of Recreational Therapy Activities

Recreational therapy activities include:

  • Arts and crafts: Arts and crafts provide patients opportunities to relax, to feel a sense of accomplishment
  • Music: Singing can be a segue to assisting with personal care activities such as washing or dressing, or a prelude to eating.
  • Spending time with animals: Including canine-assisted activities.
  • Sports: Games provide participants opportunities to laugh, to socialize, to learn a new activity, to develop healthy winning and losing attitudes.
  • Drama: These activities provide opportunities for creativeness, development of new skills and interests, and for utilizing existing skills.

Activities can take place in skilled nursing facilities or in conjunction with parks and recreation programs.

Benefits of Recreational Therapy Activities

There have been a number of studies looking at the benefits of recreational therapy activities. Researchers say the number of positive health outcomes is significant. They include:

Improvement in Cognitive Status:

  • Enhanced attention, memory and perception
  • Improved organizational skills
  • Increased decision-making and problem-solving skills

Improvement in Physical Health Status:

Improvement in Psychosocial Status:

  • Increased self-efficiency, self-confidence and acceptance of disability
  • Increased communication, trust and cooperation skills
  • Increased skills at managing stressors, anxiety and boredom

Improvement in Life, Recreation and Community Activities:

  • Improvement in community functioning and barrier management
  • Improved ability to cope with substance-related stressors
  • Improved decision-making skills

Recreational therapy is also being studied as a way to relieve distress in cancer patients who are being treated for pain.

A full list of the potential benefits can be seen here.

If you’re interested in learning more about recreational therapy activities and how they might be able to help you, talk to your doctor. Your doctor can help determine the right treatment path for you. The National Council for Therapeutic Recreation also has a lot of good information on its website.

Or if you’re interested in becoming more physically active, our free download “Physical Activity Guidelines” can get you started. Inside you’ll find out how a little bit of exercise can go a long way to becoming a healthier you.

Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans