By Jaime Blair
Aquatic exercise is one of the hottest wellness trends, and innovations in specialized pools are rising to the occasion, creating a successful niche market. Aquatic exercise is so popular because it benefits everyone—from the pro athlete in training to someone rehabilitating from serious injury. The combination of low impact and high resistance make training in the water a gentle and effective workout or therapy.
Exercise and therapy pools are typically found in hospitals, rehab centers, retirement facilities, and gyms. However, the supply and demand for residential versions of these pools are growing. An aging population of Baby Boomers and a greater focus on fitness make therapy pools a smart choice for seniors who want the benefits of low-impact exercise and rehabilitation without the hassle of keeping up with a standard backyard swimming pool. For athletes, these ingenious pools offer an intense, low-impact workout without the gym.
Hydrotherapy uses aquatic exercises for rehabilitation. The secret to hydrotherapy is natural buoyancy: when fully immersed in water, you feel 90% lighter, chest high feels 50% lighter, and waist high feels 30% lighter. The reduced weight takes the pressure off of muscles and joints and facilitates movements that would otherwise be too painful or stressful under the full force of gravity. Hydrotherapy is successfully being used to treat a range of ailments including arthritis; knee, back, and hip injuries; fibromyalgia; lupus; chronic pain; and much more. Evidence has also shown that patients undergoing hydrotherapy for Alzheimer’s or stroke are seeing positive cognitive benefits such as improved speech, language, and memory.
While hydrotherapy can take place in a standard pool, specialty therapy pools have innovative features that elevate hydrotherapy to the next level.
One impressive feature of therapy pools is the integrated aquatic treadmill. Hydroworx is a top supplier in this field. Studies have shown underwater treadmills to be comparable to land-based treadmills in calorie burn; but, supported by the buoyancy of water, users experience less joint stress, a greater range of motion, and less soreness. This method allows for earlier rehabilitation after orthopedic surgeries. Aquatic treadmills allow the user to stroll or sprint, improving strength, flexibility, and stamina without stress on joints.
Swimming in place may conjure up images of treading water, but not in a therapy pool. Endless Pools specializes in creating swim currents in their units. The propeller-powered currents adjust from zero to a racer’s pace. By swimming against the current, you can swim indefinitely without moving forward. This innovative tech allows users to maintain and increase their fitness levels while rehabilitating from injury. Professional swimmers also benefit from the adjustable current and uninterrupted flow.
Other common features in therapy pools include the following:
•Underwater video monitoring lets users make real-time adjustments to form and monitor progress.
•Hydromassage hoses can be used for deep tissue massage, scar tissue manipulation, and therapeutic massage that improves circulation and increases flexibility.
•Adjustable floor depths makes lowering and raising patients in and out of the pool safe and easy. This feature is also perfect for customizing the level of buoyancy as the patient progresses.
•Warm water (86 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit) is not only more comfortable in therapeutic situations, it’s also highly beneficial, stimulating muscle relaxation and circulation while reducing stiffness and inflammation.
•Companies like MTI Baths take a holistic approach to hydrotherapy and appeal to the senses with aromatherapy (smells), chromotherapy (colors), and audiotherapy (sound).
Residential therapy pools have no size requirements but can often have a small footprint—enough room to perform vertical or horizontal exercises. These smaller units can be loaded with features for a complete therapeutic experience while being a manageable size to install inside your home or backyard, allow above or below ground.