Pool Therapy – An Excellent Way to Stay Fit
By Tim Mitchell, Senior Care Partners P.A.C.E.
An older gentleman was asked, “What motivates you to stay so active?” “Well,” he responded, “if I don’t keep moving I’m afraid I’ll rust out.” There is a wealth of truth in that statement! In his book, The Age Antidote, Dr. Len Kravitz states, “A sedentary lifestyle is a predisposition to disability, early death, and a depreciated quality of life.” He continued, “As fitness professionals, we need to focus our attention on creating wonderful opportunities of lifetime fitness, for our students of all ages….”
Movement is extremely important to people of all ages, but especially to those that are in their retirement years. It’s during that time that people often become less active and inactivity can become debilitating. At Senior Care Partners P.A.C.E. our healthcare team encourages movement as much as possible through walking, chair exercises, Tai Chi, and a variety of physical therapy exercises to increase and maintain mobility.
One of the most enjoyable forms of exercise made available to participants is pool therapy, often referred to as aquatic therapy.
If you ask Beverly what her favorite thing to do when she comes to Senior Care Partners P.A.C.E., she responds, “Pool therapy,” without hesitation and with a great sense of excitement in her voice. She said, “When I get in the water, it’s a lot easier on me. When I’m in the water I just feel like a whole new person. I do exercises in the pool that I can’t do on land. And I really love the whirlpool! It feels so good on my back. I have chronic back pain and the whirlpool helps to relieve a lot of that pain. I’m so glad we get to go.”
Pool therapy is one of the favorite forms of exercise enjoyed by many of the Senior Care Partners P.A.C.E. participants. Using the local YMCA pool facilities in Battle Creek and Kalamazoo, several participants, along with our Physical Therapists and Physical Therapy Assistants, are transported to the pool on a weekly or bi-weekly basis for an hour of weightless exercise in the pool.
According to Kalamazoo Senior Care Partners P.A.C.E. Physical Therapist, Jessica Pressley, “We do a series of group exercises in the larger pool, then the participants can also enter the whirlpool area where they can walk with or against the current of the water and get some exercise that way as well. Some of our participants can’t even tolerate five minutes on the bike in our physical therapy gym. But they can do an hour in the pool because their bodies are unweighted in the water and they just have more freedom to really move in the water, unlike on land.”
Pressley added, “Some of our people who really struggled to walk on land or walk long distances on land can typically walk a lot further in the water. We do a series of upper body exercises with the water weights, and then a series of lower body exercises in the water. Those who have really chronic back pain will also get in the hot tub for five or ten minutes. We have seen really positive things come from pool therapy in general. But those who have severe chronic pain have especially benefited because they are able to move and exercise in ways that they haven’t been able to before.”
Lacey Vogt, Senior Care Partners P.A.C.E. Physical Therapy Assistant in the Battle Creek center pointed out some additional benefits to pool therapy, “For some people, it’s an opportunity to socialize. Some individuals who suffer from depression find going to the pool really relaxes them and gives them something active to do. Others participate in pool therapy because it helps keep them fit. It’s good for endurance, cardio and muscle strengthening. It’s also great for pain relief because it’s 93 degrees in the pool. So it’s kind of like being in a hot tub for a bit. That makes people feel more relaxed, their muscles ache a lot less and many report they sleep a lot better at night after they do pool therapy.”
In general, the increase in strength and balance in older adults through the use of aquatic exercise helps many individuals keep up with their normal activities of daily living (ADLs) longer. By maintaining these important life skills, individuals tend to have an improved mental outlook as they remain independent and active.
For additional information about the services provided by Senior Care Partners P.A.C.E. you may call (269) 441- 9319 or you can also visit online at www.seniorcarepartnersmi.org.