In October of 2015, Global Health Aging celebrated National Physical Therapy Month by publishing a weekly four-part series on aquatic therapy. Part 3 of the series touched on three major considerations when looking for aquatic facilities. Herein, the blog continues to examine other factors that may contribute to new participants’ decisions in selecting a facility, especially when there is more than one facility in close proximity to the patron. In December, be sure to look for suggestions on equipment for new patrons’ holiday wish list.
It is very important for patrons to be comfortable and warm when exercising in the water. If a patron tends to get cold, he or she can purchase a partial wetsuit or wet vest. A less expensive option is to simply wear a snug-fitting long sleeve shirt (over the top of a swimsuit, if female). When air temperatures are significantly cooler than the water temperature, a swim cap or even a knit ski type cap can greatly reduce the amount of heat lost through the head. This will help insure that the participant remains comfortably warm in the pool.
Noise Level and Water Quality
These two considerations are rare options that patrons can control when selecting a facility, unless they are willing to pay or drive to destinations farther than what is locally available. Most often, if using a public facility like a YMCA or athletic club, there is little choice available to the participant. However, it is worth noting, just to be certain, that these conditions will not impede or hamper participation.
Regarding noise level, natatoriums tend to have a lot of extraneous noise. If multiple groups are working simultaneously in either different areas of the same pool or within the same room, noise interference between the groups may diminish a participant’s satisfaction and focus. In classes designed for senior citizens who generally may have more trouble hearing than children, classes for children, like swim lessons, should not be scheduled at the same time as classes for seniors. Children naturally want to scream, especially when splashed. Hence, it is fun for them and a good release of their anxieties, as they are not yet comfortable in the water. It is not fair to expect children to be quiet, nor is it fair to expect seniors to enjoy their classes when they cannot hear the instructor and focus on the work to be done.
When selecting a facility, water quality is another consideration that may be of concern Most pools today still use either a chlorine or bromine system to kill off harmful contaminants like bacteria. While salt pools and ion filters are more prevalent in smaller pools, they may also pose challenges to patrons with skin sensitivities. Water quality is not controlled by patrons in public facilities, therefore participants are better able to tolerate the harshness of the chemicals used in pools, by showering, prior to entering the pool. Most patrons consider showering an important responsibility to rid the body of oils, lotions, deodorants and perfumes that may add to the cloudiness of water. But few do not understand that they are doing themselves a disservice by not rinsing off before entering the pool. When a patron is already soaking wet, including their swimsuit and hair, he or she has saturated the oils etc., reducing the potential for chemicals to adhere to their skin, hair and swimsuit. By showering before entering the pool, a patron protects him or herself as well as the quality of the pool water.
Sound systems deserve some brief mention as they can often be helpful when overcoming noise interference or hearing deficits. Sound systems are also good for playing music which not only adds to the enjoyment of many class programs, but the music sets the tempo and cadence for movement. There are some sound systems that play music over speakers outside the pool and the instructor may be either on the pool deck, leading the class or in the water. An instructor may wear a microphone headset that transmits a wireless voice signal to be broadcast through the speakers, if the sound system is waterproof. The choice of music can also induce relaxation in some cases.
If a patron of aquatic therapy returns to the pool to practice or perform assigned exercises without an instructor present, waterproof personal systems can add enjoyment and motivation to a patron’s aquatic therapy session. One of the most ingenious products on the market today is called a SwiMP3. The aquatic patron downloads a song list to a waterproof MP3 player and listens to the music through headphones that are actually placed adjacent to the ears on the jawbone, and the sound is perceived through bone conduction. Amazing!
Since touring an aquatic facility is exhaustive, it may be worth choosing to contract for a “trial” membership. If the patron chooses to no longer participate, the expense of a long-term membership commitment is not lost. Aquatic therapy and exercise are not only good for physical well-being, the socialization and relationships that are created in the water tend to last for years. As with most things in life, change is difficult. Choosing to begin an aquatic program is a huge investment of time and energy. Establishing a regular routine can be challenging, but when that commitment becomes routine, the benefits become SO evident that few will stop coming. Aquatics are good for life!
Felecia Fischell is an aquatic specialist with 25 years experience in aquatics. She leads aquatic classes and consults as an aquatic personal trainer and a swim instructor in and around Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia, USA. The Founder of FunLife Aquatics Consulting and Personal Training, Felecia presents at health fairs and has given aquatic presentations to high schools, Howard County Board of Education, Howard County General Hospital and Howard Community College.