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The many benefits of water therapy

Posted on Sunday, February 4, 2018 at 11:00 am


Erin McCullough

Tullahoma Parks and Recreation Department has always offered fitness classes to anyone in the community who would like to become more active and increase their overall fitness.

One particular fitness classes, however, has really taken off over the last year.

The water fitness classes, including aerobics, walking and other resistance training classes, have become quite popular for D.W. Wilson Community Center on North Collins Street.

Charles Johnson and Audrey Bjorn perform aerobic exercises while standing in the pool. “I need this,” said Johnson. “If I don’t do it for a few days, I stiffen up and my back gets painful.” Bjorn calls water aerobics “the best exercise I get,” and enjoys socializing at D. W. Wilson. — Staff Photos by Cameron Adams

According to Sheila Rico, aquatics coordinator for the Tullahoma Parks and Recreation Department, the five water exercise classes offered at D.W. Wilson have seen their popularity skyrocket.

The success of the water fitness classes is no coincidence, she said. Rico said the success of the water fitness is due to the accessibility of the classes.

“We’ve just got something for everybody, really,” she said.

The center has always offered some form of water exercise class, Rico said, but lately the water classes have given the center an extra 100 visits each month.

Rico said the increased visits can partly be contributed to area doctors’ recommendations for seniors and patients with joint issues such as arthritis.

“A lot of doctors are starting to refer (people), because it’s not hard on the joints,” she said.

The water classes provide a safer form of exercise for people who might not see results from land exercise.

“It’s a safe alternative for them as to land-based classes,” she said, “and they’re able to do it even if they have arthritis problems or knee problems.”

“Water therapy is good for them,” she said.

The classes are always as safe as the center can possibly make them, Rico said, with lifeguards watching over the pool area at all times.

In addition to the lifeguards, Rico said each of the class instructors is also certified in CPR, so there is a huge support network ready to help if

Sheron Kriss has been leading water aerobics classes for 14 years.



Class types

There are several different water exercise classes, including a Silver Sneakers Splash class, water aerobics, deep water exercise, Forever Fit class and water walking.

The classes take place between 10 a.m. and noon each day, Rico said, when all the indoor pool lanes have been removed. The classes then span the width and breadth of the pool, with water walking and aerobics classes taking place in the shallow end and the deep water exercise classes taking place toward the deeper end of the pool.

The deep water exercise classes use the AquaJogger equipment, which is a special belt that water exercisers can wear while working out.

The AquaJogger began with a “water exercise buoyancy belt” that was designed to help people going through water rehabilitation.

According to an AquaJogger workout guide, the belt keeps a person afloat in water so that they may maximize their water exercise.

D. W. Wilson Community Center lifeguard Eleanor Gilchrist displays some of the gear worn when not standing on the pool bottom.

“Since your body is submerged, the hydrostatic pressure around your body improves cardiac function, lowers blood pressure, assists the body in tissue healing and sets in motion a host of other benefits,” the guide says.

While most of the classes do have United States Water Fitness Association (USWFA) certified instructors leading their respective groups, there are some classes that are all individually-guided.

“Some of them are self-guided,” Rico said, “which means we don’t have a teacher for them.”

“People just come in and do it on their own,” she said.


Water walking

The main self-guided class is water walking, Rico said, which is a low-impact form of exercise popularized in 1986 in Norman, Oklahoma by John Spannuth, the senior aquatics director at the Cleveland County Family YMCA.

Spannuth noticed a patron walking laps in the pool and inquired about the exercise. The patron, Dee Moscoe, related that his arthritis prohibited him from walking too much on land, but that the pool walking was much easier on his joints.

Spannuth began hosting a special water walking class that saw more than 2,500 people enjoy the benefits of the exercise.

Water walking can be done in a variety of ways, according to USWFA. Walkers can walk forward, backward and even sideways in order to get a full-body workout.

Water walking can be done with “normal” steps, as one would walk on land, with quick, short steps, to increase the heart rate slowly, with longer steps and improve gait, or with special steps like “step kicks.”


Benefits of water exercise

Exercising in the water has a myriad of benefits for those looking to become more active in low-impact ways.

According to USWFA, water exercise is nonthreatening exercise due to the buoyancy of the body in water.

By nearly submerging in water, there’s no pounding the ground or jarring movements that can be difficult on the joints.

Additionally, the water places moderate resistance on every move made—nearly 15 percent more than exercising on land.

Water exercise also has the added benefit of keeping the body cooler and reducing the risk of overheating. Because water disperses heat more efficiently, the exercise done in water feels more comfortable and cool than exercise done on land.

Some of the main physical benefits of water exercise include improved flexibility and strength, increased circulation, endurance building and muscle rehabilitation.


Nonphysical benefits

Water exercise also has several components that benefit the mind as well as the body, according to USWFA. Because water fitness classes are performed in groups, there is increased social engagement between exercisers, which helps build fellowship between class-goers.

Exercising in water also serves as a stress and tension reliever. Attending the classes allows for patrons to relax and enjoy the water for a while and not worry about the stresses of work or personal problems.

The most important aspect of the classes, however, is having fun. Water exercise is a playful way to keep active and manage weight, so one need not take the classes so seriously.


Class schedule

The water fitness classes are available Monday through Thursday or Monday through Friday, depending on the class.

Forever Fit is available from 10:05 to 11:05 a.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Silver Sneakers Splash is available from 10:05 to 11 a.m. Tuesday and Thursday.

Deep Water Exercise classes take place from 10:05 to 11 a.m. and 11:05 to noon Monday through Friday, as well as 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

Water Walking takes place from 11:05 a.m. to noon Monday through Thursday, and from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday.

Water Aerobics occurs from 11 a.m. to noon Tuesday and Thursday; and from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

Some of the Deep Water Exercise and Water Walking classes are self-guided classes with no instructor.

For more information on the classes offered at D.W. Wilson Community Center, call 455-1121.

To learn more about the United States Water Fitness Association, check out their website at www.uswfa.com

Erin McCullough may be reached at tnrept09@lcs.net.