Perched on the fringes of the pool and spa markets, aquatic fitness offers precious green shoots to both the residential and commercial water leisure sectors. Hardly a tidal wave, but heightened awareness in swim spas and exercise pools are creating steady ripples of interest, with add-on bonus sales in aquatic exercise accessories like counter current units as well as purpose-built aquatic workout machines.
Hydrotherapy has long been known to alleviate a wide range of medical conditions and to speed up patient’s rehabilitation following injury. Aquatic fitness uses a combination of buoyancy, heat, hydrostatic pressure and resistance to succeed in rehabilitation programmes that simply cannot be rivalled by landbased comparisons.
Although catching the discerning eye of a growing number of private customers, it is actually the commercial sector that is stimulating most excitement. Rehabilitation centres and hospitals, that have duties of care to their patients and regulations to adhere to, are on the look-out for credible aquatic therapy suppliers.
“Commercial venues, like hospitals and health clubs, will invariably choose trustworthy vendors with a high level of specialist knowledge and a real presence for sales and after sales support,” says Stephen Weller, of Master Spas Europe, the distributors of the high profile Michael Phelps Signature Swim Spas range. “This gives bricks and mortar pool and spa companies an advantage over their online rivals, maintaining healthier margins than companies sticking to traditional pool and spa business, which is increasingly akin to commodities trading,” adds Stephen.
Chris Alcock of Interhiva UK says the market needs to understand the subtleties of swim spa selling versus swimming pool sales. “It is important to understand that though a swim spa might look like a bit hot tub, it is not to be sold like a spa, rather a swimming pool, with greater benefits,” says Chris. “Your competition are pool builders, not spa retailers. “In fact, many of the benefits of a swim spa are the solution to problems with an in ground pool such as the time it takes to install and the on-going maintenance such as winterisation, new pumps and liners,” adds Chris.
One company to embrace this growing market is Hydro Healthcare based in London, UK who offer an aquatic therapy unit, the LifeFlow21 System, which has been designed in conjunction with a leading spa manufacturer and experts from the medical and rehabilitation professions. Facilities are embracing the LifeFlow21 system as it offers the ability to create programmes and perform all manner of aquatic therapy and rehabilitation exercises in a relatively small area.
This allows increased opportunity to retro fit into existing facilities. Currently available in the US, Europe, India and UAE, Hydro Healthcare are building their global presence by carefully selecting distributors and independents who have the knowledge and abilities to meet customers exacting requirements.
The LifeFlow21 can be further enhanced by the addition of equipment such as aquatic treadmills, aquabikes, access lifts and resistance exercise kits. New scientific and medical studies are continually being released raising awareness of the benefits of hydrotherapy as a healthcare treatment. Private healthcare providers in the West are already taking advantage of the increased awareness by offering an array of hydrotherapy programmes. BMI Healthcare for example offer pre-natal hydrotherapy and aqua aerobic hydrotherapy sessions in addition to the more common rehabilitation programmes.
The movement is expected to move slowly into mainstream hospitals in the UK and across the western world but at a slower pace than some emerging markets such as India who have a wider cultural awareness of hydrotherapy benefits to relieve ailments.
Hospital construction is at an all time high level in the Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC) economies and across the Middle East with many medical projects incorporating aquatic therapy suites Meanwhile, closer to home, an increasing number of local authority pools, sports centres, football clubs and health spas are looking to add aquatic fitness stations to stimulate added appeal to their wet-side offering.
Endless Pools counts Sheffield United F.C., the Sussex Cricket Club and the British Olympic Medical Centre among their UK customers. While Endless Pools has satisfied the needs of elite athletes with tremendous results, the company offers diversity in their product offering. The new Swim Spa targets consumers who want it all – the ability to swim and workout with Endless Pool’s unparalleled current, as well as the therapy and relaxation of hydrotherapy jets in one beautiful package.
An optional, unique integrated aquatic treadmill offers users non-impact aqua training capabilities. Utilising the treadmill in conjunction with the swim current for increased intensity can allow for customised workout routines.
For those seeking a simple product for exercise and therapy, the WaterWell comes in multiple sizes and depths. Current-free, the WaterWell provides the natural buoyancy of water to support the body, while a wide range of therapeutic exercises can be completed inside. “It’s been exciting to see how broad of a reach we’ve had,” said company founder and CEO, James Murdock. “Our goal is to provide the best fit to families, athletes, and anyone seeking the therapy and fun that only water can provide.”
Boasting a 25m, eight lane pool, The Jubilee 2 Centre in Newcastle Under Lyme offers customers an aquatic therapy session on its eight Aqua Gym stations, eight times a week. The robust Aquagym wet fitness system includes rowers, walkers, steps and cycles as well as weights targeted at specific muscle groups. The Aquagym has brought people in to the centre who would not normally attend because it offers a different kind of water activity that is different from swimming or aquafit,” says aquatic manager, Wendy Blantford. “It has helped to reach members who struggle with mobility and flexibility or who are recovering from operations who can’t use the traditional gym,” she adds. Programmed sessions will usually finish one day and start another to minimise the need to add and remove the machines to and from the pool. Most sessions are instructed while others are only require standard lifeguard cover.
“We have customers who are trying to lose weight, to a lady in a wheelchair who has had brain surgery. “It is also not just females, there are some males who use it; we also do a postnatal session run by our midwives who do an aqua natal on the same night.
“It is also used by a naturist club who has members who travel from the Derby area to attend the session due to the aqua gym kit.” Water density results in 90% of a body’s weight being supported. greatly reducing the risk of bone, muscle and joint injury. Companies like Interhiva specialise in low impact aquatic work out options.
The stress that gravity puts on the body joints is therefore greatly relieved enabling freer and safer movement. This water support also means that those with back or knee problems can take part in aqua aerobics without fear of pain or further injury. High impact exercise on land becomes low impact exercise in the water Water-based heart rate is approximately 10-13% lower than during land-based exercise because of the reduction of pressure, gravity and temperature on the heart that the water provides. Those with concerns over their heart can therefore feel safer in the water, knowing that water-based exercise is relieved of much of the stress of most land-based exercise.
All operators are looking to keen to maximise the income from each square metre of floor space in their facility and for too long the swimming pool, which often occupies largest area in the centre, is the least profitable. Estelle Michaels distributes the Archimedes range of aqua gym equipment. She says: “A lot of investment is spent on upgrading the traditional gym floor equipment. “If just a small percentage of this was spent on the equivalent pool equipment the income earned return would be much greater,” she adds. “In the past not much was available, but not anymore. The good news is that there’s a range of new exercise and fitness machines on the market which allow you to walk, run and exercise in water,” Estelle points out. “It’s the opportunity to turn a pool into a gym.” Because of the cushioning effect that water provides, this form of exercise is particularly beneficial to anyone at risk from bodily stress, including the elderly, overweight, or those recovering from soft tissue injury. It’s also particularly good for pregnant women and is an ideal postnatal exercise. Archimede manufacture a large range of Aqua Bikes, Cross trainers and treadmills that will transform the way you look at your pool as well as generating new income streams. Archimede’s design ensures the machines can be quickly, easily put in and removed from the pool. This portability and versatility affords the operator maximum flexibility in programming available pool space.
Aquagym – Tel. +44 (0)1728 832 755 – www.aquagym.co.uk
Archimede – Tel. +44 (0)1444 411 411 – www.swimpools.co.uk
Endless Pools – Tel. 0800 520 0196 – www.endlesspools.com
Hydro Healthcare – E. email@example.com – www.hydrohealthcare.co.uk
Hydropool – E. firstname.lastname@example.org – www.hydropoolhottubs.com
Interhiva UK – Tel. +44 (0)1403 210261 – www.interhiva.co.uk
Master Spas – E. email@example.com – www.masterspas.co.uk
Swimming Pool Fitness – Tel. +44 (0)1299 251 010 – E. Info@SwimmingPoolFitness.co.uk