“Aqua therapy is one way to get exercise without stressing the joints,” Mehta said.
In addition to being easier on the joints, water can improve cardiovascular function and reduce balance and stress during exercise, he said. Exercise can be a benefit for people with arthritis, as well as those with muscle pain or fibromyalgia – conditions in which physical exercises can increase pain. Heated water can also provide a therapeutic effect.
Water therapy can also be good for the lungs. Mehta saw improvements in respiratory function, such as in patients with asthma.
Water exercises can be beneficial for all ages and for all fitness levels. The program tailors the program to individual patients and the appropriate exercises they need, Mehta said.
Dayton Outpatient Center offers a holistic approach to pain care. For those who incorporate water therapy into their routines, the center offers a therapy pool and equipment such as weights that go underwater and a treadmill that can be submerged.
Many people take a hybrid approach, combining exercises with water, for example, a 10-minute stretch on the ground, he said.
Patients also say they enjoy going to the pool and the camaraderie of group classes, and Mehta said that makes it easier for them to achieve his recommendation of 30 minutes of exercise at least 5 days each week. But when you like exercise, you’re more likely to do it, and therefore more likely to see the natural benefits, he said.
“With any exercise, the therapeutic effects build up over time,” he said.
Aquatic fitness options are popular at the YMCA of Greater Dayton Kleptz branch, located in Englewood.
“Our water classes are packed,” said Amy Waltersheide, senior member director there.
The classes are free for YMCA members, and the branch offers 16 water classes each week in its spa pool, heated to 92 degrees, he said. Another 12 classes are located in the top pool. The options are varied and include water aerobics, water Zumba, water walking and deep water classes.
“It’s not swimming at all,” says Waltersheide, and participants don’t have to go under water or even get their faces wet.
What they should do, he says, are sores, and there is also a deep sweat. Water enthusiasts can get as much work done in the tank as they do on land.
For about 30 days people attend the water class at Kleptz, spanning generations. She also sees aquatic classes in hot water as an appealing option for those who have arthritis or joint issues.
“You don’t have the gravity of gravity,” says Waltersheide.
The branch also has chair and lift access to therapy and special pools for those who are unable to use the stairs, he said. Aerobic equipment, water flotation plates and life jackets are also available, and there is a lifeguard in each pool.
Specht, who returned to the Miami Valley in 2017 after many years in Florida, was worried that she might fall and break her bone. Exercising in the water has those concerns.
“If you fall, you’re in the water,” he said.
Different water classes work different parts of the body, such as the core, arms, legs, or even the fingers, he said, and the movements help improve the movement of the participants.
Expect teachers to work within personal boundaries.
“They always say, ‘Do what you can with what you’ve got,'” he said.
Specht spends two or three hours in the pool every week. He looks forward to his visits and sees many of the friends he has made over the years.
“It’s not only good for health and the body, it’s fun,” he says.