How do you choose the best aquatic exercise and aquatic therapy pool? The first step is to be aware of what products are out there before you buy. And the second step is to ask yourself two very important questions…
QUESTION #1: WHAT DO I WANT TO ACHIEVE FOR AQUATIC THERAPY?
Imagine yourself standing in your new aquatic therapy room. What will you use it for? Once you determine this, you’re on your way to finding the best swim spa. Some examples of what a good therapy pool can accomplish are:
- Rehabilitation exercises
- Recovery from Injury
- Sports Performance
- Full body workouts
- Aquatic Exercise Classes
- Swim Coaching
- Daily workouts for overall health and well-being
There are so many pools on the market today. They vary greatly in terms of size, function, water current, depth, interior layout, and construction. Once you start researching, you will feel overwhelmed by the amount of available options and features.
One of the first features to research is water current. It’s important to find a system that will help you achieve your goals. The water current is a big factor and will make all the difference in the results you can expect to obtain from your pool.
Different manufacturers use different systems to generate water flow. These systems will determine the width and depth of the current, as well as its speed, power, consistency, and reliability. Based on a particular system and the current it creates, you will know whether or not the pool is right for you.
AVAILABLE WATER FLOW SYSTEMS:
Positioned in the back of the pool, the paddlewheel pulls the water through a rear grate and then pushes it through tunnels or a false bottom floor to the front of the pool where it flows through a front grille.
The river-like current is as wide as the pool itself, and can run as deep as 30” (76 cm). The paddlewheel circulates up to 25,000 gallons of water per minute. Driven by an industrial electric gear motor, there are 99 variable speeds. Additionally, the paddlewheel is built into the pool and requires no additional support.
Users can effectively swim, exercise, rehabilitate, and relax in a paddlewheel driven swim spa.
The paddlewheel creates the smoothest, most powerful water flow on the market. If your goal is to swim or run against the water, this will challenge the strongest swimmer or athlete.
If you need aquatic therapy for recovery and rehabilitation, the 99 adjustable speeds can accommodate any patient or athlete, no matter what stage of recovery they are in.
The water flow can be programmed to be gentle enough for early rehabilitation exercises, and increased gradually throughout the recovery process. The paddlewheel water current spans the entire width of the pool. This makes it ideal for full body workouts and upper and lower body exercises.
Positioned inside a grate at the front, the propeller pushes the water from the front to the back of the pool. This system generates a centralized current that is focused in the middle portion of the swim spa.
Some propeller driven currents can be as wide as 24” and as deep as 18”. A propeller can generate a current which may circulate water up to 5,000 – 7,000 gallons per minute (18,900 lpm).
Users can effectively swim, exercise, rehabilitate, and relax in a propeller driven swim spa. The size of the propeller’s motor will determine how powerful the water flow will be. It will also influence the number of adjustable speeds and the current’s smoothness and consistency. Due to the centralized current, the water flow can limit certain exercises, and swimmers need to stay in the middle of the pool to get the most out of a propeller driven current.
A jetted pool, also known as a “pressure driven” system, uses pumps and nozzles rather than propulsion to generate the water current. They are typically powered with centrifugal pumps and feature one or more jets at the front of the pool to push the water. Jetted pools can move up to 1,100 gallons per minute.
Users can swim, exercise, rehabilitate and relax, but this system is the most limiting for results. Depending upon the number of jets (sometimes up to 8), the water resistance can be narrow, turbulent and inconsistent.
If you want to use this system for water exercises, look for a jetted water flow that offers speed variation and/or allows adjustments to the jets for current direction. These will offer the most effective way to control the current. Swimmers who want to get the most out of a jetted system will most likely have to use a swim harness tethering system to adequately swim against the water flow.
Now that you understand what systems are available, you should find the company that provides the current that’s right for what you want to use the pool for. Then, dig a little deeper:
- What are the available models?
- How and where is the pool constructed?
- What is the price structure?
- Will you get a good return on your investment?
- How much maintenance is needed once the pool is installed?
Hydrotherapy pool prices vary greatly depending upon the water flow system, the pool’s size, construction (acrylic, fiberglass, vinyl liner), and additional features and options. Each company has its own pre-construction services, delivery, installation procedures, and in-service training.
Remember the old adage, “You get what you pay for.” Make sure you know your exercise/therapy goals and expected outcomes before you buy. Ask what the water current can handle. Choose a company that provides both a water flow system and pool shell that will meet all of your needs.
QUESTION #2: WHO WILL USE THE POOL?
Pools come in many different shapes, sizes, interior layouts, and a variety of in-pool equipment options. The number of users at any given time, and the frequency of those users will help you determine the right resistance pool for your needs. In addition, you need to consider the size and strength of the different users.
Below are things to consider as you evaluate who will be utilizing your new therapy pool:
1. Are you looking for a pool that will accommodate more than one player/athlete in the same session? Do you need to maximize the time your athletes spend in the pool?
If so, look for a swim spa large enough to accommodate multiple users. In addition, some pools on the market offer distinct work station areas within the same pool that can handle different therapy or exercise protocols.
Look into how you can customize the work stations and interior layouts to meet your specific needs before selecting a pool.
2. What athletes will use the pool?
Some pools offer different depth variations. Make sure the pool is deep enough to accommodate your players’ physical build. While most aquatic exercise is performed at chest level, it is important that you have the right amount of space and appropriate depth to get the most out of your athletes’ exercise and therapy routines.
3. Are you looking to challenge your athletes in training or do you want the pool used strictly for rehabilitation?
Either way, the strength, consistency, reliability, and speed of the water flow has a lot to do with the pool’s ability to help you accomplish your goals. Know how the current interacts with the pool’s interior layout. Where is it in the pool? How will it affect your expected outcomes?
4. Do you want your athletes to use the pool for aquatic running?
There are a variety of aquatic treadmill options on the market. Some pools come with integrated treadmills, or you can purchase a drop in version. If the pool has a strong enough current, it is also possible to run against the water flow without using a treadmill.
Look at all of the available options. If you decide on a treadmill, familiarize yourself with how the treadmill is incorporated into the pool, and how it interacts with the current.
Can you use the water flow to enhance your treadmill work out? Can more than one person utilize the pool while the treadmill is running? Can you incorporate more than one treadmill to maximize each session? Answering these questions will help you ensure that your athletes get the most out of aquatic running.
Taking the time to know what you want before buying your hydrotherapy pool will lead to a high return on investment, and of course happier, stronger, healthier athletes.