Comparing Sports For The Chronically Ill

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Many of us enjoyed sports before our bodies decided that they were too sick to participate. I enjoyed recreational tennis when I had the energy and stamina to play a few games. At the present time I can’t play tennis. Even if I could play a little on a “good” day, my shoulders now move out of joint painfully. This is one of the joys of Ehlers Danlos Syndrome.

I’m always looking for things that I can do physically. Many of us who are living the Chronic Life are able to play some games or sports. If you are one of those who can still enjoy this type of exercise, let’s look at a few of the sports that might work best.


Aqua therapy is one of the best types of physical exercise used in physical therapy. The no-impact act of swimming is so much easier on joints than other exercises. Swimming can be a sport, especially if you’re able to swim laps. Swim classes often are good for chronic illness folks. I’ve even been told that classes for seniors would be the level of swimming that I could try.



Walking can be a sport in speed-walking races, but we usually think of walking as a low-impact exercise. Many with chronic illnesses are able to walk short distances. This is one thing that can be improved upon in terms of time and distance. Others may find that they can never go any faster, but just continue at a slow and steady pace.

Horseback Riding

We may not participate in a horse race, but riding a horse can help you burn calories and exercise the main muscle groups. Muscle control and muscle strength can be improved by riding a horse.

Tai Chi or Yoga

These aren’t sports, but offer many great benefits for the body and mind. They are slow and gentle movements and can be done by many who suffer with chronic illness. There may be some movements that you aren’t able to complete, but that’s alright. It’s good to do a little exercise, even if you can’t do a lot. Find an instructor who can help you adjust routines for your level.

Pickleball Game


Pickleball is similar to tennis. The dimensions of the pickleball court are smaller, so there isn’t as much court to cover. This saves your legs, feet, and joints. To make it even easier on the body, play doubles instead of singles. There will be much less running, because the partner will do half of the work. Many who formerly enjoyed tennis, switch to pickleball in order to play an easier version of the sport. The paddle is used to serve underhand, which makes it a lower intensity movement. Many seniors also enjoy this game.


Golf is a low-impact sport. If walking from hole to hole is too tiring you can always use a golf cart. There is plenty of time between shots to rest, so there won’t be fast movements or rapid exertion. If one is able to walk between holes, they can gain these exercise benefits without having to walk at a quick pace.


Croquet can be a fun and competitive game to play. If you have a large enough yard, it’s easy to set up for a fun game of croquet. This is also a fun social event, because there will be plenty of time for conversations. This is a very low-impact sport.

Video Games or Wii

If you don’t have chronic wrist and finger pain, playing video games can be a delightful “sport” that can be played with 2 people or even a larger group. If you have a Wii system, there are many sports to be played. This gives the players the ability to move around and get a little exercise. If the repetitive motions are too painful, it might not be the best for your body.

As in all exercise, it’s important to discuss new things with your doctor or physical therapist. They can give you great advice and may have some new ideas for you to experiment with. I hope that you’ll have the ability to play a game that you enjoy and that won’t cause you additional pain.

Disclaimer: I’m not a medical expert. This post contains my opinions and experiences and is not meant to be taken as medical advice. If you have a medical concern, please consult your personal physician.

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