Get OUT!

Jul 23, 2013
Tagged with: Get OUT!

After my father acquired a C3/C4 SCI, one of his favorite pastimes was watching the birds in our backyard.  He quietly observed their flights from the feeder to the surrounding trees and back again. He watched as they bathed themselves in the big stone birdbath, flinging water droplets into the sunlight.

I have always been a nature lover, but my appreciation was more for the grandiose: a magnificent sunset or majestic mountain peak or wild bear sighting. My Dad taught me the joy and wonder found in the every day, little things.

Being a student of research, naturally I was curious about the science behind the effects of being outside, especially in regards to the experience of disability. Interestingly, studies have found outdoor experiences to have a profound effect on the adjustment to an acquired physical disability, the reconstruction of identity after a traumatic experience, community re-integration and redefining disability itself (Beringer, 2004). In fact, there is an entire field of rehabilitation called adventure or wilderness therapy, although to date this has been focused more on treating addiction or behavioral issues. But, adapted outdoor sports are a great way for people with disabilities to get outside AND get active. Disabled Sports USA has a great website (http://www.disabledsportsusa.org/chapters/) which lists adapted outdoor sports programs around the country. What a great combination…nature and exercise!

I realize that for some, my father included, participation in adapted outdoor sports is not easy. Just getting out of bed is not easy. But, I truly believe he reaped many health benefits, even if they were just psychological, from his time outside in the yard in the company of feathered friends.

As you go about your day today, I encourage you to nurture an appreciation for nature. You don’t necessarily have to be in the middle of the woods…just take a moment to do more than just look… SEE the natural world around you. Marvel at the bright red of a flower, the sound of a birdsong, the smell of rain. Please share what touches you – it might be something other readers never noticed before!

I’d also love to hear your thoughts on adventure/wilderness therapy. Should this gain more attention as part of a comprehensive rehabilitation program?

Interested in getting outside? Check your local area for a “rails to trails” system (http://www.traillink.com/). These are old railroad tracks that have been paved over to create a walkway. They are usually flat and easy for walking or rolling.

For information about accessible trails, please visit: http://www.AmericanTrails.org/resources/accessible/index.html

Nearly all states have parks with accessible trails. Call your local park and recreation service to inquire.

Author: Katie Henley



  • bobl07

    My favorite outdoor activities are waterskiing, fishing, and getting up early just to hear birds chirping. All three, I do not get enough chances to do.

  • bobl07

    I typically do not get enough opportunities to go fishing, waterskiing, and nature watching. Sometimes I just enjoy getting up early to listen to birds chirp.