Author Brian L. Hughes
After receiving a double amputation below both knees due to a diabetic infection in 2014, I initially thought I would never play golf again. I had enjoyed many sports throughout my life, baseball, basketball and football as an adolescent and teen, tennis and golf as an adult. Surely, I thought sadly laying in my hospital bed in Atlanta, Georgia, “I’ll never play tennis and golf again,” activities I envisioned playing for the rest of my life.
Not so fast Brian! Shortly after moving from Atlanta to Jacksonville, Florida I was reintroduced to golf at the Jacksonville Beach Golf Club, I’m seen here getting tips from Mary Lyons, a Class A LPGA Teaching Professional. Mary is also the lead instructor for the Brooks Rehabilitation Adaptive Golf program.
Brooks Adaptive Sports and Recreation was created in 2007 as a resource for individuals living with physical and/or visual disabilities to enjoy the benefits of social, physical, and emotional health and well-being through ongoing activities. The program provides a variety of weekly activities as well as sponsoring educational clinics and sporting event competitions with athletes holding national and world champion titles and Paralympic status.
Adaptive sports improves the quality of life for those with disabilities
I already knew that sports were beneficial for my physical health. But in recent years, I’ve also learned that sport and recreation participation can positively affect my mental and emotional health. Here’s how:
- Sports reduce stress and depression, leaves me in a better mood: My first time on the golf course in over five years released me from the depression I felt in the hospital following leg surgeries. While playing and practicing golf and other adaptive sports, my mind isn’t considering thoughts of grief and sadness. When I’m physically active, my mind is distracted from daily stressors as well. This helps me avoid getting bogged down by negative thoughts. Exercise I receive from adaptive kayaking, cycling and yoga reduces the levels of stress hormones in my body and equally important, are crazy fun! It stimulates production of endorphins, the natural mood lifters that can keep stress and depression from overwhelming me.
- Sports help with concentration: Regular physical activity like trying to hit a ball off the tee at the driving range helps keep my key mental skills sharp as I age. This includes critical thinking, learning, and using good judgment. Concentration is key, especially when trying to follow Mary’s coaching, with my playing partner constantly yakking in my ear (my good friend Luther Delp!). Research has shown that doing a mix of aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities is especially helpful for improving concentration. I try to participate in exercise and adaptive sports three to five times a week for at least 30 minutes to receive the concentration and other mental health benefits.
- Sports improve sleep habits: Sports and other forms of physical recreation improve the quality of sleep. They do this by helping me fall asleep faster and more deeply. Sleeping better seems to improve my mental outlook the next day, as well as improve my overall mood. The day after I go adaptive kayaking on Hanna Park Lake, I’m in a great mood all day long!
- Improve self-confidence: Physical activity can help you improve significantly on the level of your self-confidence. If you stick to your plan and exercise regularly, you will notice that your physical fitness, strength and stamina constantly improve. If you begin anew, you will see a lot of progress, especially in the first weeks. When you realize that you physically improve you will also feel mentally stronger, more confident. The better you feel, the happier your mood will be. And if you are able to find a physical activity that you can do outside – like adaptive cycling, golf, kayaking, water skiing, etc. – then you will also get a boost in Vitamin D, further reducing the likelihood of depression.
- Social connectedness: The experience of feeling close and connected to others involves feeling liked, cared for, and valued. It forms the basis of interpersonal relationship through sports and recreation.
Social Connectedness through adaptive sports
I think social connectedness is the part of my Brooks Adaptive Sports and Recreation experiences I enjoy most:
- Enjoying the company of fellow athletes like the aforementioned Luther and others at adaptive golf, kayaking and fishing.
- Exchanging warm greetings and receiving welcoming friendship and support from the Brooks Adaptive Sports & Recreation staff including Program Manager Alice Krauss, and Program Specialists; Dan Caldwell, Suzy Blalock, Bubba Calloway and so many other dedicated professionals and volunteers.
- Disabled participants are encouraged to come with their spouses and family members – my wife enjoys the recreational activities herself, while she really appreciates that I am living an unrestricted life despite my disability.
We all think we know how to take good care of ourselves: eat your veggies, work out and try to get enough sleep. But how many of us know that social connection is just as critical?
One landmark study showed that lack of social connection is a greater detriment to health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure.
On the other hand, strong social connection:
- Leads to a 50% increased chance of longevity
- Strengthens your immune system (research shows that genes impacted by loneliness also code for immune function and inflammation)
- Helps you recover from disease, injury and surgery faster
Living in Northeast Florida and interested in enjoying these incredible benefits of adaptive sports and recreation? Check out the Brooks Adaptive Sports and recreation weekly activities.
The Adaptive Sports & Recreation Association’s (ASRA) mission is to provide sports and recreation activities for children and adults with physical disabilities to ensure opportunities equal to their peers.
Disabled Sports USA’s mission is to provide national leadership and opportunities for individuals with disabilities to develop independence, confidence, and fitness through participation in community sports, recreation, and educational programs. They recently published a list of the Top 10 States For Adaptive Sports. To no surprise to me, Florida made the list!
About the Author
Brian L. Hughes is a highly sought-after global consultant, speaker and coach. He has achieved great success in linking inclusive leadership competencies with agile business practices for leading organizations. Brian defines inclusive leadership as; leaders that bring awareness and clarity to problem areas, they practice courageous accountability to help resolve those problems, they empower others, and they foster innovative collaboration to unlock the unique contributions of each person in a group. To learn and discuss more about Disability Inclusion and Inclusive Leadership, please connect with Brian on LinkedIn.