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When OTs Wore White Shoes

Back in the Pool

Published August 26, 2015 1:22 PM by Debra Karplus

For about twenty five years, I swam laps in an indoor pool near my house once or twice a day almost daily. My form was never great, and my swim lasted only about twenty minutes. After my swim I'd sometimes stay for use of the steam room or the whirlpool. When I was finished, I came out feeling clean and relaxed, like a blob of spaghetti, yet invigorated. People who swim laps regularly can probably relate to this feeling. 

When the facility started making rumblings about building a new sports center on the other side of town, I decided it was time to re-assess my exercise program. I terminated my membership, and found other ways to exercise, including riding my bicycle, playing tennis, attending yoga classes and connecting with friends who wanted to take brisk walks. I felt that my new regiment provided me with the level of exercise that I needed to feel good both physically and emotionally.

People who knew that I had been a long time lap swimmer frequently asked me if I missed swimming, and I really felt that I did not miss it at all. The more recent activities that I did for exercise added a social component to my life that swimming really could not provide, and I am a rather social person.

But this summer, I found myself with some unstructured time, and after many years of not doing lap swim, I had a craving to get back into a pool and go for it. I made some calls around town to find out schedules and rates, and finally found an indoor facility that was a ten to fifteen minute drive from my house that sold a punch card specifically for lap swimming, with no expiration date. So I plunked down my credit card and hopped right into the pool. 

The temperature of the pool was perfect, not warm or even hot like some of the pools for therapy, but not icy cold either. And the other swimmers, all people about my age, seemed super friendly. Initially, as I did my first few laps, I found myself a bit short of breath, and that was worrisome. But then, that stopped and, much to my surprise, I had the endurance for twenty minutes of good swimming using good form. I came out of the pool with a calm feeling that I hadn't felt in a long time, ready to face the challenges of the day.

I have never used aquatics as a modality for my occupational therapy patients, mainly because I have never worked in a setting where a pool was available. But I certainly see how aquatic therapy - low impact, low intensity - can help our rehabilitation patients, even the older ones with the numerous orthopedic problems such as arthritis, hip and knee issues, and neurological problems including stroke or Parkinson's disease.

I would love to hear from readers who have incorporated aquatics into their occupational therapy treatment plans in physical or mental health settings.

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3 comments

Hi Debra,  I was certified in Occupational Therapy in 1975 and regularly used indoor pools for exercise & PE Class requirements.  Back then, none of my coursework centered on swimming/aquatics for OT...  Fast forward to "LIFE"-marriage,children,working,aging and possibly facing a disease (in my case it is multiple sclerosis-which shocked me).Ah, just around the time when I wanted to take better care of myself(empty nest,nice job in OT,getting back into some exercise) I decided to try AQUATICS or WATER JOGGING again. The cool water, gentle movements,increased heart rate,calmness as you said,(and adding a waterproof radio headset) are accomplishing so much more than I expected.  PLEASE, if anyone is working with patients who have MS,get in the water.  I attended a seminar that specifically was for therapists working with MS clients and the success stories are there! As both a woman with MS and COTA, water benefits me as a person and employee. "SPLASH!

Denise, Occupational Therapy - COTA, SCHC November 19, 2015 4:40 PM
Saint Louis MO

Thanks for reading and commenting, Kari.

Debra Karplus September 8, 2015 10:43 PM

Hi Debra, what a wonderful post! I love aquatic therapy, too. I actually wrote a blog post recently about combining aquatic therapy with Dance Movement Therapy as an excellent therapy option for stroke survivors. I was inspired after reading a heart-warming article about a stroke survivor who was absolutely transformed by her dance/aquatic therapy experience. Cool stuff - it's changing lives!

I love this blog, and I'd love to contribute if I can! Do you accept guest posts?

Thanks, Kari

Kari, Medical - Marketing September 8, 2015 6:12 PM

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