As a Physical Therapist, I am always looking for novel, creative ways to keep people moving. Recently, many therapists and activity centers have purchased video game systems such as Nintendo Wii and Microsoft Xbox Kinect to design fitness and activity programs. These systems have successfully motivated individuals with cool graphics, energetic sounds and detailed record keeping. Notably, my experience with the classic game of billiards or pool has produced similar results. Pool is a very familiar game that can be played by most people of any age, ability or disability. I have observed that playing pool for older adults is great therapy and has been incredibly successful at increasing their quality of life.
- increasing self-esteem
- learning and motivation
- having an activity in their lives to look forward to
- improving well-being
- improving quality of life
- increasing fun
- increasing joy
- increasing time spent with friends and family
- increasing sense of camaraderie
- increasing heart rate
- improving fine hand dexterity movements
- improving shoulder flexion and extension movements
- increasing hand-eye coordination
- increasing balance
- increasing mental activity
Pool is a great activity for the body and mind. While playing pool, both your mind and body are active. Your body is constantly walking, standing, sitting, bending, leaning over, positioning hands and arms, and performing strong and delicate movements with your upper extremities. Additionally, one of the basic fundamentals of playing pool is a person’s stance, which is also very important in preventing falls in the elderly. Moving your feet apart and creating a wide base of support provides a good foundation. While leaning forward to make a shot, a person practices balancing on their feet and strengthening their core muscles. Typically, players also bend their knees and shift their weight to achieve the best angle for viewing the pool table. A person playing pool who is constantly practicing his balance to make a shot, is less likely to sustain a fall in the community or at home.
While a person’s physical body is practicing balance, their mind is also exercising. A pool player’s mind is dealing with distractions, analyzing situations, practicing mental focus and concentration, and dealing with all the emotions of competition – anger, frustration, fear, anxiety, pride, excitement and joy.
As I said previously, I am always looking for novel creative ways to introduce physical therapy. In this case, I chose a fun, familiar pastime from the past instead of the unfamiliar video games of the future. Playing pool has been demonstrated to be very successful in keeping people fit, and helpful in keeping people practicing the skills necessary to prevent falls. All that aside, playing pool is fun, and a great activity for all ages. So rack ‘em up!
Foley Weems PT, DPT
GetTogether Physical Therapist