On land, Sheila Horras can only walk a couple of minutes at best, but in the warm water therapy pool at the United Presbyterian Home in Washington, she can walk many more.
“I have very limited mobility and cannot walk far, so doing walking for exercise is not possible for me but I can get in the pool and I can walk a mile without any pain,” she said.
She said she’s only been utilizing the pool for a few months but already has seen a drastic change in her balance. The unique feature of the pool are two underwater treadmills that allow people an opportunity to walk with less pressure on their joints.
“For anybody that is having mobility problems, regardless of what the cause is, just being able to walk a mile without any discomfort is amazing,” she said.
Horras said she has seen a boost in her overall morale, too. For someone who used to be a walker and can no longer walk outdoors like she used to, she says the pool has been “a blessing.” A retired geriatrics nurse, Horras said she would like to encourage anyone with mobility limitations to give the pool a try because for her, it has made all the difference.
“You’ll be able to do things in that therapy pool with your joints, as far as fluctuation, that you can’t do outside because (in the water) you’re weightless,” she said. “I don’t think they realize what these treadmills in this pool can do. You can walk when you can’t walk otherwise.”
Amy Kleese, Wellness and Fitness Director at the UP Home, said the pool is 19 feet long by 12 feet wide with two depths: 3 and a half and 4 and a half feet deep. The pool is open for therapy, fitness and classes.
Members must sign-up for pool time and the treadmills are first-come, first-served. Kleese said there are other therapy pools in the area but having the treadmills is what sets this pool apart.
She said for people who do not do well with traditional therapy, water therapy is a great alternative because the water allows for the muscles to relax and have a fuller range of motion.
“Being weightless and more buoyant in the water helps them, but then they’re able to get that cardiovascular exercise to help too,” she said.
At the bottom of the pool are cameras that shoot all the way across and project onto a TV on the wall. Kleese said these are especially helpful for people on the treadmills because it allows them to keep an eye on where and how they are walking.
“That just helps when somebody’s on a treadmill and they’re concerned about foot placement,” she said. “That kinesthetic awareness just helps them have better walking patterns (and) better exercise patterns.”
The pool can be used for exercise as well as therapy, which Kleese says is a benefit to the pool, because the 90-degree water temperatures create a relaxing environment for exercise.
“For some it’s a starting place and they’re working their way back up, and for some they just enjoy it and they feel better when they’re coming in and doing it,” she said.
From a medical standpoint, Kleese said the pool is great for people who are wheelchair bound because it allows the body to stretch and use joints and muscles they cannot on land. The warm water also relaxes the muscles to allow them more flexibility and range.
For Sheila Horras, that added flexibility and range are why she continues to go back. She said her main goal is to keep her independence and she feels that with the help of this pool and the services offered through the treadmills, she is able to do so.
“I’m out and about and I see these older people with their walkers and their canes and they’re barely getting around and I want to say to them, ‘Go over to the UP Home and use their pool,’” she said with a laugh. “I don’t think people realize what a difference it makes.”
Anyone with questions or interested in a membership for the United Presbyterian Home Wellness Center is encouraged to call 319-591-2888.