Water therapy: A prescription for better health

  • Participants stretch during a water therapy class at the Greenfield YMCA. Participants are aided by floatation belts, and also use lightweight resistors for stretching and jumping jacks.

  • Low-impact exercise allows for a bit of friendly banter during a water therapy class at the Greenfield YMCA, shown at left.

  • Aquatics Director Sarah Smith, foreground, leads a water therapy class at the Greenfield YMCA. Smith teaches four classes a week with a total of 70 participants. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Participants stretch at the beginning of a water therapy class at the Greenfield YMCA. The hydro-genetic pressures of the water help relieve pain and stiffness.

  • “I want my participants to make new friends, increase their self-confidence and overall improve upon their physical health,” says Greenfield YMCA Aquatics Director Sarah Smith, pictured above.

  • Aquatics Director Sarah Smith, left, works with participants in a water therapy class at the Greenfield YMCA. Smith says the classes aren’t just about improving health, but “about the bigger picture in creating a community sense within the class.” Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Instructor Charles Duchin leads an exercise during a water therapy class at the Greenfield YMCA.

For the Recorder
Published: 4/19/2019 5:47:45 PM
Modified: 4/19/2019 5:47:32 PM

“Splish, splish, splash” is more than a catchy Bobby Darin song. It’s also the sound that comes from the Greenfield YMCA’s pool every weekday, as local residents partake in water therapy classes.

The classes, created 28 years ago under former Aquatics Director Pam Mickiewicz, are a fun and stress-free way to exercise gently in a pool without putting unnecessary pressure on muscles and joints.

“We want the water therapy class to enhance on core strengthening and help minimize fall risks,” said Sarah Smith, the current aquatics director. “I want my participants to make new friends, increase their self-confidence and overall improve upon their physical health.”

Smith teaches four classes a week with a total of 70 participants. Water Therapy I and II focus on balance, flexibility and core strength, making sure everyone has steady footing when they’re moving around. Participants are aided by floatation belts, and also use lightweight resistors for stretching and jumping jacks. Participants ages 15 and older are welcome.

For some, wearing a bathing suit can be a little intimidating; however, everyone greets each other with open arms and makes an effort to ease anxiety, Smith said.

“I think it’s important for everyone to come and try to take it,” she said. “It’s about the bigger picture in creating a community sense within the class. Plus, it’s one of those different workouts you can’t experience anywhere else.”

Most of the people in the class can only exercise in the water due to health issues such as arthritis, osteoporosis and back, knee and hip replacement.

The hydro-genetic pressures of the water help relieve pain and stiffness, Smith explained. Participants can move freely with the resistance of the water to build up their strength.

Retiree Mary McCall wasn’t able to walk up and down the stairs. But since taking the water therapy class last June, she’s been more active in her daily life.

“I feel better,” McCall said. “I enjoy the camaraderie and the actual exercise helps the different places in my body I have problems with.”

Mary Parsons is another retiree who had severe back problems and both of her knees replaced. The only option she had was a six-hour surgery. Though her pain was less severe following her operation, Parsons still felt pain in other parts of her body and thought the water therapy class could help.

“This class has helped me with my knees,” Parsons said. “I can move them back and forth a lot easier and they’re not as stiff as they used to be, so I’ll keep it up for as long as I can.”

Participants can be referred to the class by their doctor or physical therapist through a program called “Prescribe the Y,” a 12-week wellness program where participants work toward better health and healing, Smith said.

Referred patients start with a free consultation with one of the Y’s exercise specialists. During the consultation, their wellness goals, motivation and physical needs are discussed and evaluated, Smith explained. YMCA staff will work with them to monitor attendance and individual progress toward their fitness goals.

Penny Jordan is one the participants that started taking the class under the Prescribe the Y program. She chose water therapy for her arthritis. Jordan had a frozen shoulder and was unable to lift her hand above her head for six years. Now, her joints are better and she’s learning how to swim again.

“I’m more disciplined now,” Jordan said. “I want to exercise on a regular basis, so if I know I have to make a little bit of an investment to come here, I’ll do the exercises I need to do.”

Elnora Witt is another participant taking the class under Prescribe the Y. She has neck and back problems, and had a hip replacement. The water therapy classes have helped her mentally; each time she comes, Witt said she walks out feeling better and looks forward to the next class.

“I feel safe,” she said. “When I’m in the water, I don’t feel any pain at all, and I thank Sarah because she’s such a good teacher.”

Smith is hoping to get more participants in the program, and wants people to realize what a benefit it can be for their lives.

“Hearing their success and physical improvement is the biggest reward I get out of this class,” Smith said. “The simple things we sometimes take for granted that mean the world to them — that is my biggest enjoyment, and hopefully I can continue to do that for other people.”

Water Therapy I classes are on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10:15 to 11 a.m. and 3 to 4:45 p.m. Water Therapy II classes meet Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10:15 to 11 a.m. and 3 to 3:45 p.m. For more information, visit ymcaingreenfield.org or call 413-773-3646.

Miasha Lee is a resident of Hatfield. She loves writing about music, health, culture and everyday people in the community. Contact her at
miashalee2@gmail.com.




Greenfield Recorder

14 Hope Street
Greenfield, MA 01302-1367
Phone: (413) 772-0261
Fax: (413) 772-2906

 

Copyright © 2019 by Newspapers of Massachusetts, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy