Feature Article - February 2007
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Special Supplement: A Complete Guide to Aquatic Centers

By Jessic Royer Ocken

Top Secret: Water's Health Benefits

"The amazing thing is that there's really almost a vacuum, an absence of data demonstrating the health benefits of water in peer-reviewed literature," said Tom Lachocki, CEO of the National Swimming Pool Foundation (NSPF).

Although anecdotal evidence abounds, the scientific journals haven't been too focused on this issue up to this point. But the NSPF is working with others in the industry to change this.

Dr. Bruce Becker's keynote address at last year's World Aquatic Health Conference highlighted the physiology and physics behind the health benefits of immersion in water.

"Exercising is even better," Lachocki said. "But just immersion, the pressure on the body from the water, has heart and lung benefits, and there's also a parasympathetic response."

In other words, spending time in water tends to be relaxing, and a little relaxation is something almost everyone could use.

Being stressed and excited for long periods of time can lead to chronic disease, Lachocki said, "so the data are there implying that immersion could have health benefits. The NSPF is funding additional work to build the body of scholarly evidence for this, which is important because science ultimately influences popular perception and people's behavior. Decision-makers are influenced by medical journals, which influences physicians to say, 'We need to get you in the water.'"

With our healthcare professionals "desperate for ways to get the population more healthy," as Lachocki pointed out, hard facts about the benefits of water immersion and exercise could give doctors and therapists another tool for healing.