Just two and a half hours of aerobic exercise each week can decrease chances of getting a chronic illness. Participating in activities such as swimming, bicycling or running can also improve health for people who have or are at risk for heart disease and diabetes.
For more than five-and-a-half years Sherelyn and Wayne Holecek have been attending aquatic fitness classes at Kootenai Health's Terrill Aquatic Center. Both participated in aquatic therapy while recovering from surgery and decided to stick with it when they noticed the results.
"When I started working with the therapist I was still in a wheelchair," Wayne said. "We decided we needed an exercise program - so five days a week we go to class and I'm walking again.
"The pool never turned its back on me and I never turned my back on the pool."
The warm, 90-degree water is comfortable for swimmers. A pool is considered a warm-water pool when the temperature is kept around 89-92 degrees Fahrenheit.
"A warm-water pool is good for therapy because cold water can make muscles tense up," Gina Vanvoorhis, fitness instructor, said. "It is especially important for people with fibromyalgia, arthritis and chronic pain because many people with this type of condition are intolerant to cold water."
The therapy pool at Kootenai Health is kept at 92 degrees from October-June and lowered to 90 degrees July-September. The aquatic environment is regulated by a certified pool operator, the aquatic exercise classes are led by certified fitness instructors. These instructors provide class participants with a wide-variety of water activities including deep water exercises as well as strength training with water weights.
"We do all kinds of great exercises," Sherelyn said. "The water is forgiving; it allows you to work really hard without being too sore after. The McGrane center is a very bright spot at Kootenai.
"The instructors are caring and professional and we get to have a good time, make friends and we always feel like a million dollars after."
Although anybody can participate in water-based exercise, it is especially beneficial for older adults because it can help improve quality of life and reverse some disabilities. For those with arthritis, it can improve the use of affected joints without creating additional discomfort.
"We've both needed Kootenai ever since we had our surgeries," Wayne said. "After my surgery I was feeling mad, I was physically run down, falling and I had to do something. I knew if I didn't I would end up back in the hospital."
Aquatic therapy and exercise can help improve mental health as well. It can decrease anxiety and exercise in warm water is proven to decrease depression. The Arthritis Foundation found that patients that participated in a warm-water aquatic program had reduced pain, decreased feelings of isolation through social interaction, gained strength and flexibility, and found an overall improvement in their day-to-day life.
"The class is different every time we go," Sherelyn said. "We don't have time to get tired or bored, we're always doing something new and challenging."
To learn more about aquatic therapy and exercise, visit KootenaiHealth.org or call (208) 666-2950.
Andrea Kalas-Nagel works in communications and marketing at Kootenai Health.