Concussion exercises for a beach vacation: 5 experts share their tips (1/2)
Just had a concussion but already had a beach vacation scheduled? Our experts at York Region Concussion Clinic share exercises and activities you can do on the beach to get a-head on your rehab.
Tip #1 from our occupational therapist, Caitlin Heino.
Fate was on our side. The vacation that you planned is perfect after a concussion, rather than a ski holiday, or hiking in a national park, you get a relaxing beach holiday. Now let’s not neglect the brain and prioritize that beach body. So let’s pick a cliché and add some challenge. Build an epic sandcastle. I’m not talking about flipping over a bucket and sticking a twig in it, I want something elaborate, a true architectural masterpiece. Think more the Buckingham Palace of sandcastles. Make this a challenge that is feasible, if you’re not ready to build a masterwork, start simple on day 1, and when you attempt it again, go big before you go home.
- Attention. This engineering marvel will require focus, you may even have competing distracting stimuli (e.g. listening to music), maybe you’re multitasking and also carrying on a conversation at the same time? Choose your appropriate level of challenge.
- Memory. Did you plan out the castle beforehand? How many towers were you going to build? Are you re-creating a pre-existing castle using your visual memory? Why not build Casa Loma, your childhood home, Edinburgh Castle, Helm’s Deep?
- Processing speed. This is a time limited challenge, the tide will come in at some point, or if it doesn’t make this a contest and set a time limit. Ultimately you will need to use those cognitive abilities under some time pressure.
- Executive functioning. Yes, this is quite the complex task, you master architect. You are combining attention and memory, with visual and spatial reasoning, to plan and problem solve. Why was this fortification built? What defenses should be in place? How do I prevent a mudslide? What is surface tension again?
Remember not to push yourself too hard, even for the sake of a sand castle building competition. Take breaks if you start to experience symptoms. Also instagram your masterpiece, or even better, tweet us a picture!
Tip # 2 from our physiotherapist, Donna Chan.
A beach vacation is perfect after a concussion. Leave the busy city life behind and fly to paradise, where you can de-stress, relax, and enjoy the nature. While you’re on the beach, there are a few exercises I want you to try. Don’t worry, I’m not asking you to pack your bosu ball or kettlebell (luggage space is precious). Instead, I want you to take advantage of what nature has to offer.
In the water
- Aqua Jogging: Jogging in water is a fun way to build up your cardio. Walk deep enough so that the water covers below your chest. Try running on the spot first to see if your head stays above water. Jog along the shoreline so the depth of the water is relatively consistent. Make sure you don’t go too deep. If the weather is not on your side and the waves are too violent, you can try this exercise in the pool.
- Snorkeling: Grab your snorkeling gear and head to the water! Snorkeling can be a great full body workout. When you dive, tread, and change directions, you activate every muscle in your body. Snorkeling also requires you to take deep and controlled breaths. This is your opportunity to show off your diaphragmatic breathing.
On the beach
- Yoga on the beach: For those who enjoy yoga, try yoga on the beach. Feel the warmth of the sun and listen to the sound of the waves. For something even more picturesque, head to the beach at sunrise or sunset. Downward dog and warrior pose to the spectacular rays of light above you.
- Balancing on sand: Make a large pile of sand and stand on it. Transition into a single leg stance. See if you can hold this for 30 seconds. If you can, I want you to challenge your balance by looking left and right while in a single leg stance.
Tip # 3 from our chiropractor, Dr. Ricky Ma.
Start your beach vacation with a few mantras…
- Sunshine is the best medicine. Besides packing your swimming trunks, towel, flip flops and sunscreen lotion, don’t forget to bring a large sun hat with a large brim and a pair of polarized sunglasses. These will come handy for patients who are sensitive to light. Set up your day under some partial shade, under a palm tree or a umbrella, but don’t be afraid to get a tan, there are many health benefits to Vitamin D including vestibular health.
- An ocean breeze puts the mind at ease. Since you are at the beach, and far from your home and workplace, try to leave any unfinished work and worries aside. Clear your mind and focus on your individual senses. This is a good time to explore mindfulness, relaxation, meditation and breathing.
- We dream in colours borrowed from the sea, Never give up for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn. Some of us may think that a beach vacation means taking a break from our routine and overindulging in what we crave: eat, sleep, play. However, this is a good time to get in the habit of exercise. Research has shown that delaying exercise 7 days post-concussion was associated with a 83% slower recovery. Learning how to paddle board can be an effective way to stimulate the vestibular and proprioceptive systems, which are often impaired post concussion. Even just learning to sit on a paddle board or balancing on your hands and knees can challenge these systems.
- For every minute spent organizing, an hour is earned. Organization is key. Travelling can be stressful especially with kids. Arrive to the airport early and avoid the long and busy line ups. If you are going to an all inclusive resort, avoid the dinner rush by setting up your dinner reservations strategically. You will get to eat at the restaurants of your choice without the noisy background.
- It takes a village to raise a child. Most beach resorts have a kids club with supervised games and activities to keep them busy. Take advantage of these services and indulge yourself in some self-care.
Tip # 4 from our neuro-optometrist, Dr. Mona Ubhi.
A beach vacation. Absolutely perfect to help your body, brain, and visual system relax. Leave your brock string and technology behind (unless, of course, you’re sending us a picture of the epic sandcastle you made), and use this time to enjoy the absolute bliss of warm weather, sunshine, sand under your feet, and the calming sounds of the waves hitting the shore. Aah, paradise!
- Take this time to destress and remove as much tension as you can from your upper back and neck as possible. Relaxing these areas can also help to reduce that “pulling sensation” and strain around your eyes. Learn more about it here!
- Try to take in the beauty around you by opening up your peripheral vision. Use a focal point to look at while you try to see how much you can see around you using your peripheral vision. This is also the perfect time to practice your mindfulness techniques to calm the business of the world around you.
- Really miss training your saccadic eye movements? Bring word searches, crosswords, or sudoku with you. Complete one or two pages while sitting under your beach umbrella and feeling that breeze. This is a great way to add some visual cognitive tasks while in a relaxing environment.
- Take a stroll along the shore, and watch the waves rush in to train your pursuit eye movements. Move your head around while walking to scan the beauty of the beach.
Use this vacation to remind yourself what relaxation truly feels like, and try to bring this feeling home with you. This relaxation will help you during your therapy.
If you need advice on your individual situation or have concerns, reach out to your concussion team.
Tomorrow our medical director and sports physician Dr. Taher Chugh shares his tips for making the most of your beach holiday. Stay tuned!
Last update: March 2019