By Marissa Horanic
Swimming is well-known as a popular summer activity. It’s a great way to beat the heat, have some fun, and even get full body exercise. While it’s more of a summer social activity, swimming has many benefits for your body, whether you’re disabled or able-bodied.
Here’s a list of benefits:
- Joint & Muscle Pressure Relief — Being in water is similar to being weightless. The water supports your body and greatly reduces the pressure on your joints and muscles from gravity. This means that you can stretch and strengthen parts of your body that may not often experience full range of motion.
- Muscle Strength — For people with disabilities like muscular dystrophy or spina bifida, aerobic activity can be especially difficult due to rigid or loose muscles. Being in the water makes those muscles easier to move, and muscle movement builds muscle strength! The same holds true for those with joint conditions like arthritis, hypermobility spectrum disorders, etc. as the water supports your body in a way that highly minimizes joint impact during exercise.
- Heart Health — Aerobic exercise is great for your heart too, since your heart is a muscle that works hard to pump blood throughout your body. Improving your heart health by swimming also improves your circulation! Swimming as a disabled person allows you to reap the cardiovascular benefits without impacting your body.
- Mental Health — During exercise, your body releases endorphins and serotonin, which are chemicals that improve your mood and help with stress. With regular exercise, the release of these chemicals can help things like depression and anxiety, stress levels, memory function, sleep, and energy levels during the day.
- Social Wellbeing — As mentioned before, swimming is usually a social activity. Swimming with friends and family allows time for bonding and relaxation, and swimming in public areas allows you to meet new people with the same interests as your own.
- Independence — Since being in water makes you feel weightless, you can often move more freely without assistance. Not only is that freedom important to exercise, but it can allow you to imagine independence in other aspects of your life, which leads to an increased sense of self confidence.
However, it’s incredibly difficult to reap the benefits of swimming when swimming pools aren’t accessible. In-ground swimming pools tend to be inherently accessible as they often have either stars or a ramp descending into the pool, while above-ground pools can be more challenging. Thankfully, there’s equipment available to allow everyone access to the benefits of swimming.
Pool Lifts — There are pool lifts that work for both above and below ground pools. The most popular types are the ones that act like stair lifts, with a seat that turns and lowers you into the pool, and the ones that look like swings that can both lift and lower a person in and out of the water. Getting in the pool is the most important step!
Portable Pool Ramps — If pool lifts and stairs won’t work for you, there are portable ramps made for water that can allow you access into a pool (or any body of water) via walking or wheeling. They can be placed directly over built-in pool stairs.
Floats — There are floats made specifically for people who have limited mobility to help keep their heads above water while allowing their bodies free motion in the water. That being said, there are also MANY types of pool floats, whether designed for persons with disabilities or not, and there’s bound to be one that suits your needs. Pool floats can grant independence that you may not have outside of the water, and can help you relax instead of fighting to stay afloat.
Pool/Shower Chairs — If a pool float really isn’t your thing, you can opt for a chair or platform that can easily be moved in and out of the pool. These are built for water, with texture on the plastic for friction so you won’t slip whether you’re sitting or standing. They’re great for both relaxation and exercise!
Swimming is meant to be a good experience for everyone, so let’s try to make public pools more accessible for those who need it. Whether or not you have a disability, the next time you’re at the pool, keep an eye out for the things mentioned in this blog post. Don’t hesitate to ask the pool owners or workers what equipment they provide to make their pool accessible. And if they don’t have much knowledge regarding accessible pool equipment, have an educational conversation, because the goal is to help make the world more accessible. And definitely don’t forget to rate and review your local public pools on VacayAbility.com!