Swimming is a popular fitness activity for many senior citizens, because it provides good aerobic exercise without the high impact and joint stress of running or jogging. It also helps them control their weight. A drawback, however, has been the lack of a pool. We can run or jog anywhere but finding a place to swim laps or do aquatic aerobics is often challenging. An answer for many may be the Endless Pool, a counter-current swimming and water exercise machine that is small enough to fit inside a home.
Swimming as a means of exercise for older Americans gets a lot of attention on Websites of the National Institutes of Health.
"To me, there's nothing better than swimming," says Dr. Elias Zerhouni, Director of the NIH. "It just gives you a minute of solitude, you think about things. You feel your body and it's refreshing. You feel like you're in touch with yourself."
"I'm 68, says Dr. A.B. Lindberg, Director of the National Library of Medicine, "I hope some day I'll actually be old." Exercise on a daily basis is going to help everybody, says Lindberg who swims laps. "Swimming actually has a lot of good attributes but it does almost literally and metaphorically wash away all the frustration of a day, and leave the good things and let you quietly compose your thoughts and maybe your plans for the next day. You know, mankind should never have left the water. This is his natural state. Swimming is great."
Endless Pools advertises on SeniorJournal.com, which is what first attracted our attention to them.
"The Endless Pool is ideal for water therapy and other aquatic exercise," says their Website. "Our customers use their pools for everything from rehabilitating broken bones to relieving the symptoms of arthritis and MS."
Sometimes referred to as a treadmill for swimmers, this pool features an adjustable current that allows users to swim or exercise in place. The current is broad and deep, they say, and is suitable to every swimming ability and fitness need. You can also set the temperature precisely, based on preferences and needs.
People often describe the installation and use of the Endless Pool in life-transforming terms, says the company, and they point to Regina Sellers, a 68-year-old resident of Texas, as such a person.
Not only does she no longer require a wheelchair or a walker, Regina has won four gold medals in Senior Olympics swim competitions for athletes 55 years and older. In the process, she has lost weight, gained energy, and has better circulation, especially in her legs and feet.
Also like many devotees, Regina took a serendipitous route to Endless Pool ownership. Not a swimmer when she was younger, she first took up the sport – "in order not to go crazy" – at a local pool, in San Antonio, while caring for her ailing mother. Over and above renewed vigor and emotional well-being, the effort produced the first of her gold medals. When her mother's health improved, she and Regina moved back to Spring Branch, more than 80 miles to the north.
Without swimming, though, "I just felt lost," recalls Regina. "And I gained a lot of weight, and my feet hurt, and I could hardly walk, and I decided I had to do something. We saw the ad for the Endless Pool in an in-flight magazine," and the rest, as they say, is history.
Her husband completed construction a year ago last August of a room specifically for the pool, and Regina has been using it virtually every day since. She keeps the water temperature at about 90º, and her routine consists of 45 minutes of aerobics with a friend, followed by a 1,000-stroke swimming workout.
Not everyone develops Regina's proficiency in swimming, but her experience demonstrates convincingly why it is a great medium for starting an exercise program and how the Endless Pool helps. The water's buoyancy relieves stress on joints and connective tissues, even as its 600-to-700-times-greater-than-air resistance accelerates metabolism and boosts endurance. The combination of variable resistance and easy access also promotes optimal comfort levels and an incremental approach to conditioning. Just ask Regina. She has now set her sights on winning a national championship, though she feels no sense of urgency. In fact, she says, "I think I'll wait until I'm 70. It'll be more fun that way."
"Water therapy can also be a God-send for people with arthritis, osteoporosis, multiple sclerosis, asthma, and chronic joint or back pain," says Leslie Krichko, a professional water therapist and spokesperson for Endless Pools.
Because it is nearly gravity-free, aquatic exercise is the preferred therapy for many medical conditions. And, in an Endless Pool, you can do aquatic therapy at the ideal temperature and pace for your needs, in total privacy and at your own convenience, says Krichko.
Krichko says that "therapy in an Endless Pool actually helps people with injuries recover faster," for several reasons:
- Water provides buoyancy and support for the body. When you are neck-deep in water, you only have to support 10% of your actual body weight.
- In the pool, injured people can exercise with a greater range of motion without hurting joints or re-injuring themselves.
- The workout gets blood moving faster through the injured area, so it heals faster.
- Water pressure helps keep down the swelling that often accompanies injury.
- You can increase your physical fitness while you recuperate, so you may even avoid prolonged physical therapy just to get back in shape.
How It Works
The Endless Pool propulsion unit can move a huge amount of water -- up to 5,000 gallons a minute -- through two grills that straighten and smooth the water's flow. The result is a river-like current that is totally adjustable in speed from a gentle flow to a racer's pace by simply turning a knob.
The swim current is generated by a 16'' propeller inside a protective stainless steel housing that is driven by a hydraulic motor.
The swim current is remarkably smooth because of an ingenious return system using the pool's underwater perimeter benches. As the water flows down the center of the pool, it enters a grill in the rear bench. The side benches act as return channels that loop the water from the back to the front of the pool.
Better and Safer
The Endless Pool swim current is far superior to those produced by jetted spas. These spas pump only a few hundred gallons of water a minute through high-pressure nozzles. Their currents are turbulent and very narrow, even when three or more jets are used. In a jetted spa, only a small amount of water is moving and the current speed is greatly diminished by the time it reaches the other side. In fact, the flow is so low that there is no need for a return channel system in a jetted spa.
This unique, current system engineered by Endless Pools produces an ideal, broad, deep, non-turbulent swim current. It is remarkably free of waves and bubbles, making it ideal for swimming, exercising and physical therapy.
The selling points for Endless Pools:
- It offers all the benefits of a large pool in a small space.
- The pool and its water quality system require very little maintenance.
- The unique, swim current is completely adjustable in speed, from zero to racer's pace.
- It can be finished in a variety of materials and styles.
- The kit comes complete with everything you will need to swim or exercise.
- It fits in most indoor and outdoor ground-level spaces.
- Excellent for many purposes: swimming, water exercise, aquatic therapy and relaxation.
- It costs about the same to operate as a hot tub.
- All parts of the kit can fit through doorways as narrow as 24 inches, making it ideal for installations in existing spaces like basements and garages.
- The pool is backed by premium customer support and a limited warranty.
- The width, length and depth can be customized to your specific needs.
- The entire Endless Pools system has been ETL listed after passing rigorous tests for electrical and other safety standards.
- When the pool is covered, very little humidity escapes into your indoor or outdoor space.
- Because of the innovative Water Quality System, it is virtually odor-free, even indoors.