Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

May 8, 2013

HEALTH: Water-based exercises boost health benefits - plus they’re fun

Jo Anne Embleton
Jacksonville Daily Progress

JACKSONVILLE — Individuals looking for a good workout without feeling worked over need look no further than the swimming pool, say individuals overseeing local aquatic exercise programs.

Trinity Mother Frances – Jacksonville health and fitness general manager Ann Provencher said the Aqua Moves and Arthritis Aquatic Program classes are very popular among participants, who like the quality workout they receive compared to the effort put into the exercise.

“Because you’re in the water, you’re more buoyant and it makes you feel like you don’t have the weight” pulling you down the way a regular exercise program might, she said. “Water makes the activities easier for a person, though it also is used as a (type of) resistance, so a person is getting a true workout.”

According to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, water-based exercise – like the two MFH classes and the Ripple and Water Works classes at the ETMC Olympic Center – Jacksonville – “offers many physical and mental health benefits and is a good choice for people who want to be more active.”

Swimming is the fourth most popular sport in the nation, and “just two and a half hours per week of aerobic physical activity, such as swimming, … can decrease the risk of chronic illnesses,” according to the website http://www.cdc.gov. This, in turn, “can … lead to improved health for people with diabetes and heart disease.”

And because “they can exercise longer in water than on land without increased effort or joint or muscle pain,” the site states, “people report enjoying water-based exercise more than exercising on land.”

“It’s the best way for anyone to start (an exercise program) because there’s no impact,” Provencher said.

Jody Balfay, instructor of the ETMC aquatic classes, agreed.

“It provides an exercise mode that executes less impact on the joints and bones (and) it induces a faster recovery rate from injury,” she said.

In addition, Balfay said, “the hydrostatic pressure of the water assists in a more efficient venous return, which is great for those with diabetes and older students with circulation problems.”

In regard to arthritis, aquatic exercise “improves viscosity in the joints, thereby enhancing mobility for those with osteoarthritis – people with arthritis are encouraged to do water exercises over land exercises because of less impact on the joints,” she added. “Most of the older students with physical issues that prevent them from doing any other form of exercises, attend regularly.”

Both women said participants really enjoy the classes, which are held in each hospital’s salt-water pool – an environment which adds to the buoyancy factor.

“They love the instructors, who they said are very motivating and understanding, and who care about them,” Provencher said.

And, “people are able to do things in the water that they could never do on land, such as jumping jacks and  jogging,” Balfay said. “Most people love it the first time they attend a class – it’s nothing like they thought it would be.”

Participants don’t need to know how to swim – and each of the pools have a depth between four and five feet – but for those afraid of the water, the relaxed environment helps them conquer that fear.

“A large majority of students are afraid of the water, but after attending classes, their fear is overcome,” Balfay said. “I have even taught people how to swim just by working with them after class.”

The classes are part of a membership offering that includes use of exercise equipment and other facilities at each of the hospitals. Cost varies, as do times offered. Contact either ETMC – Jacksonville or Mother Frances Hospital – Jacksonville for more information about the aquatics classes.