Recommended Sporting Activities by Occupational Therapists

OT Recommended Sports 

Primary goal of occupational therapy is to enable children to participate in the activities of daily life independently and easily. An occupational therapist teaches children daily life skills, self-regulation skills and motor skills. Sports might provide an opportunity for children to practice these skills they are developing during the occupational therapy sessions.

According to a recent study, Occupational therapists are expanding their scope of practice into innovative settings, such as working within sport and leisure environments. The benefits of sport in occupational therapy has been widely supported (Bullen & Clarke, 2020).

The following is a list of our top picks for some sporting activities outside of the therapy sessions:

Yoga

An OT can ask a child to practice mindful yoga movements during the session to improve mind-body connection. Incorporating yoga into occupational therapy can improve emotional regulation and physical wellbeing of a child. 

Both Yoga and OT are complementary to each other in the sense that they encourage the use of mind and body in unison in daily life in order to function with a new outlook while being in a regulated state.

Swimming

According to recent studies swimming helps with occupational therapy. Given that swimming is an activity in which the body weight is fully supported it is often recommended by Occupational Therapists. The brilliance of aquatic therapy is that the inherent properties of water e.g. buoyancy, resistance, and hydrostatic pressure helps with strengthening, balance, and even functional skills, while providing a fun environment for children.  

Swimming as a part of Occupational Therapy or aquatic therapy is great for kids who have issues with muscle tone, challenges with coordination and learning new movements and ASD. Swimming and water-based therapy exposes children to different exercises that can challenge their gross motor coordination while increasing their muscular strength, balance, and endurance.

Cycling

Riding a bicycle provides an opportunity to your child to participate in physical activity and develop healthy habits. Cycling can aid Occupational therapy as it involves many gross motor skills, including balance, coordination, postural strength, and core strength. 

Gymnastics 

Learning gymnastics can benefit a child’s overall development since it involves strength, flexibility, speed, balance, coordination, and discipline. Integrating gymnastics with occupational therapy for children, can build a range of motor and coordination skills. It can improve muscle strength, endurance, and power. In addition to that working in teams may improve social skills and emotional regulation in children as well. 

Martial Arts

Martial arts includes Taekwondo, Western Boxing, Kickboxing, Judo, Self-Defence and Kung Fu. It can be incorporated in occupational therapy since it aids the development of sensory regulation, muscle tone, motor planning, coordination, and development of confidence and self-discipline. It helps children develop strength, flexibility, agility, and overall cardiovascular fitness. In addition to the physical benefits, children learn to be part of a team, which improves their social skills. 

Rugby

Children's with problems such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, Down Syndrome, Dyspraxia, Sensory Processing difficulties, Emotional Regulation difficulties often have difficulty working with a team. Playing rugby and being a part of a team helps children develop a lot of skills related to OT such as self-regulation, motor skills and help them function more effectively in the things that they need to be able to do every day. 

An example of a program that combines rugby and OT is the Sense Rugby program launched in Australia. Sense Rugby is run by experienced Paediatric Occupational Therapist and trained rugby players, who help children improve their ability to self-regulate while giving them a chance to belong to a great community for life.

Other Team Sports

For lots of kids being a part of a group can bring significant challenges such as anxiety and behavioural changes. Issues with coordination, sensory processing issues, delays in social skills development and delays in motor skills development might result in children feeling frustrated when they are a part of a group. Involvement in team sports especially ones headed by a trained OT can not only help children gain physical benefits but also improves their social skills and emotional regulation skills.

References:

Bullen, D., & Clarke, C. (2020). Occupational therapists’ experiences of enabling people to participate in sport. British Journal Of Occupational Therapy, 030802262097394. https://doi.org/10.1177/0308022620973944

Recommended for you