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Multiple Sclerosis Centers of Excellence

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Get Out & Play

David Tostenrude -- Director, National Veterans Wheelchair Games

What are you doing today? If the answer is "Going to work", what are you going to do when you are off? If the answers then become "I don't know", "I can't do … because ….", or "I wish I could …", you aren't alone! We can help turn those responses to "I don't have time or room for one more hobby!".

As healthcare professionals, we are going to tell you that getting out and exercising is fun, will decrease your stress, reduce weight, improve cardiovascular endurance, decrease depression, and reduce secondary medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, etc., etc. You know all that. However, we all find ourselves, at some point in our lives, in a situation where getting started can be the challenge. The movement from the rut to something different has to start with you, but we are there to back you up.

When confronted with a condition, such as MS, either newly diagnosed or perhaps you are dealing with newly onset challenges, support to move forward can really help. If you relate to this frustration, let us know. Contact your healthcare provider or VA recreation, physical, occupational, or other rehabilitation therapist. If you don't have one, ask your healthcare provider for a consult to get started overcoming the barriers you are facing and develop a fitness, sports, or recreation program to get you going. The ultimate goal will be to get you active at home throughout the year in meaningful activities that will make a difference in your life and health.

The first step is letting your VA therapist know about your interests. Some VA rehabilitation programs will have sports programs to get you started at the medical center. Others may get you out in your community and introduce you to organizations that you can get involved with right in your own backyard. If your condition is such that adaptive sports equipment will help you get more involved, the VA can help you get the right equipment. Some people avoid wheelchairs or 'adaptive equipment' due to feelings of being more dependent or being viewed as disabled. These are just tools. Recumbent bicycles, handcycles, and sports wheelchairs can improve your mobility and intensity to play sports, allow you more freedom to exercise and explore your community with your family and friends, and expand opportunities in your life.

If your passions are sports, creative arts, skiing, golfing, or even if you have a wild idea of trying surfing, the VA has several National Sports Program and Special Events that can give you a kick start. Each is designed to introduce you to activities that will reinforce what you can do at home and in your life. In each event, you'll also be included in a greater community of Veterans that have faced or are facing the same challenges you may be experiencing. Go to www.va.gov/adaptivesports and follow the links to each of the national opportunities. One of the national programs is the National Veterans Wheelchair Games (www.wheelchairgames.org). For more information on the Games or for help to get started, contact Dave Tostenrude, Director of the National Veterans Wheelchair Games, at david.tostenrude@va.gov.