Occupational Therapy & Exercise

Blog post provided by guest blogger and OT graduate student Lori Baird with Colorado State University. 

Imagine what it would be like to not have enough strength in your arms or hands for your daily activities. How would you be able to bathe, cook, put on your clothes, or eat? Strength and agility is necessary to be able to do these basic activities independently and many people find themselves in circumstances where they are unable to physically conduct the necessary occupations of life. Exercise is the primary means of creating and maintaining strength for the daily activities of a person’s life.

This is why therapeutic exercise is such a valuable part of the rehabilitation process for clients participating in occupational therapy (OT). In the world of OT therapeutic exercise can include any of the following; range of motion (passive and active) exercise which helps maintain joint mobility, aerobic exercise which helps increase the heart rate and provides conditioning, resistive exercise which helps build muscle strength and endurance, and stretching which helps lengthen muscles. Occupational therapists utilize all of these therapeutic exercises with the end goal of helping their client’s regain independence in their valued occupations of life. Not only does exercise benefit the physical capacities of clients but it also improves mood, increases overall quality of life, and prevents further health decline.

This is even more important as a person ages! Older age coupled with the development of a chronic disease often make regular exercise more challenging and less likely to occur without intentional intervention. Exercise is beneficial in treatment of many chronic diseases and research shows that “perhaps the most universal and effective treatment for chronic illness and disability in late life is physical exercise” (Bean, 2004). Therefore, occupational therapy encourages therapeutic exercise to help with a person’s overall wellness and aims to target particular activities that a person needs to build strength and endurance with.