Program Notes: Aquatic Exercise and MS Showcased in New Online Resource Center
by Peter Damiri
Vice President of Programs and Services
MSAA is proud to announce the launch of its new Swim for MS online Aquatic Center as part of our national campaign promoting water-based exercise for people with multiple sclerosis, developed through a collaborative partnership with Genzyme, a Sanofi company. Accessed at SwimForMS.org, the comprehensive web center showcases MSAA’s national program initiative supporting the awareness, understanding, and availability of swimming and aquatic exercise as a positive wellness opportunity for the MS community.
Swimming and other forms of water-based exercise have well-established health benefits for many fitness levels. The unique properties of water along with its cool temperature can create an inviting exercise environment for individuals with MS, especially for people who may have difficulty managing traditional land-based activities. In fact, recent research on individuals with MS suggest that aquatic exercise is effective for improving flexibility and range of motion, cardiovascular endurance, fatigue level, muscle strength, mobility function (including gait and balance), quality of life, and psychological well-being. In addition, none of the studies identified an increase in relapse or reported any other adverse change in neurologic status.
The Swim for MS online Aquatic Center features four main sections:
- About Aquatic Exercise and MS – Extensive information about the benefits of aquatic exercise and how water-based activities can be adapted to fit all levels of ability and types of MS
- Aquatic Resources – Helpful tips and suggestions on how to begin an aquatic exercise program and where to find a pool in your area
- Multimedia Center – Inspirational videos of people living with MS who incorporate swimming and aquatic classes into their healthy lifestyle plan
- For Healthcare Professionals – Research findings and supportive information on aquatic exercise and MS for neurologists, physical therapists, rehab specialists, and aquatic fitness instructors
Included among the new print, video, and web-based content featured on MSAA’s online Aquatic Center are the recently published booklet, Aquatic Exercise & Multiple Sclerosis: A Guide for Patients, and the latest MSAA archived webinar, Discovering Aquatic Exercise and MS. Developed with the help from experts in the field of aquatic exercise, rehabilitation therapy, and MS, resources on the Aquatic Center are designed to help the MS community better understand swimming and community-based water exercises.
“At MSAA, our mission is improving lives today,” said MSAA President and CEO Doug Franklin. “Through our partnership with Genzyme, we are very excited to bring these important resources to the MS community and provide them with an opportunity to enhance their physical and emotional quality of life through aquatic exercise.”
The topic of aquatic exercise is as broad and varied as the individuals with MS who might want to participate. Whether participant interest lies in performing high-level aerobic workouts, moderate cardio and strength training, or gentle slow-moving forms, aquatic exercise can be adapted for all levels of physical abilities. Individuals are urged to consult their physician and physical therapist prior to the start or change of any exercise program or routine. MSAA also encourages participants to contact the aquatic fitness instructor prior to joining a class and discuss their overall health needs as well as any factors related to multiple sclerosis. Having an open dialogue between the participant and the professional can help ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone.
Based on your discussions with your healthcare team, you should be able to develop an individualized aquatic exercise plan with specific goals to meet your needs. To locate an appropriate pool facility in your community, ideal resources to search include the national network of YMCAs, recreational centers, college/university campuses, and national and local gyms and fitness centers. When selecting a pool facility, you should consider safety (hand rails, non-slip surfaces, etc.), accessibility, location, activity/class, schedule, pool temperature, and appropriate instructor. It is also important to note that at this time there is no definitive research supporting water-temperature guidelines for an MS exercise program. The general recommendation is for water temperature to be between 80 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit.
MSAA invites you to learn more about aquatic exercise and MS by visiting our exciting new online center at SwimForMS.org. You may also contact our Client Services Department by phone at (800) 532-7667, extension 154 or by email at MSQuestions@mymsaa.org.