Supplement Feature - February 2013
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Calm Water

Trends in Aquatic Health & Safety

By Wynn St. Clair

Support Healthy Swimming

Without question, the aquatic industry has an obligation to promote the benefits that water immersion, exercise and activity provide, experts said. It's a way to get patrons excited about coming to the pool and making aquatic exercise and recreation a part of their regular routine. In return, you reduce the number of potential drownings at the facility.

To that end, the National Swimming Pool Foundation has three grants for year 2012-2013, totaling $67,974, with the potential to fund an additional $50,000 to extend the studies through 2014, for a total of $117,974.

"Physicians, therapists and insurance companies rely on published science when considering options to treat patients. As people age, medical costs increase and mobility and quality of life decreases. We believe we have the magic potion. Our funded research will prove it," said Bill Kent, chairman of the foundation's grant review committee, when he announced the awards.

The foundation awarded $25,000 for the first year of a two-year program to Hirofumi Tanaka, Ph.D., associate professor and director of the Cardiovascular Aging Research Laboratory at the University of Texas at Austin. The study aims to investigate the effects of regular swimming exercise on cardiovascular functions in middle-aged and older adults with osteoarthritis. Researchers will explore how aquatic activity can benefit the nearly 27 million Americans who suffer from osteoarthritis, the leading cause of disability in older adults. Though arthritis advocates often promote the benefits of swimming, there have been no previous studies proving that, Tanaka said.

The American College of Rheumatology recommends aerobic exercises be included as part of the treatment for osteoarthritis. However, arthritic joint pain is a significant barrier for adults attempting to perform land-based activity. Tanaka's research will examine whether aquatic activity is the best exercise for these people. A total of 40 osteoarthritis subjects will be assigned to one of the 12-week exercise interventions.

"Swimming has been lumped in with all other 'cardiovascular exercise' when people talk about health benefits, but there hasn't been even one scientific study so far of swimming, specifically, for people with arthritis," Tanaka said. "If the study can show the benefits of swimming exercise for people with arthritis, then the aquatic industry will be able to share those benefits with the public."

The foundation also awarded a $17,974 grant to Joel Stager, Ph.D., professor and associate chair, Department of Kinesiology, at Indiana University and director of Counsilman Center for the Science of Swimming. Stager will study the effect of long-term aquatic conditioning on aging-related cognitive, neuromuscular and cardiovascular functional decline.

A third grant totaling $25,000 was awarded for the first year of a two-year program to Paul D. Chantler, Ph.D., assistant professor in the School of Medicine, Division of Exercise Physiology at West Virginia University. He will study the effects of aquatic exercise on arterial stiffness in Metabolic Syndrome (MetS) patients. Metabolic Syndrome affects about 35 percent of adults, making them three times more susceptible to developing cardiovascular disease and stroke. Because obesity is one of the causes of MetS, Chantler's research will study arterial stiffness and cardiovascular function in MetS patients who perform aquatic activity.

Both Tanaka and Chantler presented recent findings at the October 2012 World Aquatic Health Conference. The industry's vitality and future growth is dependent upon aquatic managers embracing these studies and sharing their results with the general public, experts said.

"We will all get older. We will all die. Why not explore to what extent water activity will help us maintain our mobility and minds while we are alive," Lachocki said. "It is no coincidence that people believed in the fountain of youth and not a football field of youth."