The Oregonian: 'Treadmill for swimmers' boosts health, well-being

When contractor Bill Meals was planning to build his family's dream home, incorporating a pool and a spa was more of a necessity than a luxury.

His wife, Suzy--who has multiple sclerosis and is recovering from surgeries following a back injury--needs to swim regularly for her health. His mother and father, who live with Bill and Suzy, have their own medical problems that call for water therapy: His mother has had knee replacement surgery, and regular dips in a hot tub are beneficial for his diabetic father.

The indoor Endless Pools swimming machine in the Meals Family's sunroom
The Meals family use this Endless Pool (seen here with the cover on to retain heat and trap moisture) for daily aquatic therapy. The modular Endless Pool easily allows for indoor installation, so three family members have access to rehabilitation and pain relief all year round.

An outdoor pool was a possibility, though it would have been a tight squeeze in the family's Happy Valley cul-de-sac.

Plus, Suzy noted, "the neighbors have an outdoor pool, and they use it only three months out of the year."

Instead, Bill Meals ordered an Endless Pool--a small 8-by-15-foot pool that's 6 feet deep and has a current that flows from a unit at the front of the tank.

"Our product is a counter-current swimming and exercise pool that's often called a treadmill for swimmers," said Chris Wackman, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Pennsylvania-based Endless Pools. "The swimmer or water jogger swims, but doesn't go any place."

Bill Meals installed the pool indoors, where it is surrounded by windows that look over the valley; the space is further brightened by four skylights. An eight-person hot tub was installed outdoors in a courtyard, just a few steps away from the pool.

The pool's counter-current can be turned down to accommodate the slowest swimmers or up to a top speed of three miles per hour for Olympic-caliber swimmers or triathletes.

Installation is a relatively easy affair, Bill Meals said the kit he received included easy-to-follow instructions and a video that covered installation and maintenance. Wackman estimates that hiring someone to install the unit would cost $2,000 and up, depending on the complexity of the installation.

Suzy Meals and her mother-in-law have been using the Endless Pool regularly since May. Suzy puts in at least an hour a day in the pool and hopes that the exercise will help her leave her wheelchair behind.

Bill Meals is putting the finishing touches on the room that houses the pool--window trim and some lemon trees that should thrive in the warm, sunny space.

Suzy, a self-described "water baby," has one more decorating touch she wants to add. On a trip to Key West some years ago, she got to swim with dolphins. To remember the even, she purchased a leaping dolphin sculpture, which she plans to display in the pool room or the courtyard beyond the pool.

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