Pool therapy freedom for those with chronic lung conditions

Pulmonary patient Delmar Thorington demonstrates new OxyFloats during therapy with aqua-certified Nell Resnick, PTA.

Up to now, there hasn’t been a convenient way for people dependent on supplemental oxygen to exercise in a pool.

In the past, the business of tethering long tubing to a cannula and having to stay close to the pool deck, made aquatic therapy a difficult alternative for people dependent on oxygen.

When land-based exercise becomes too hard for people with lung conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, aquatic exercise may not be a viable option without the right equipment to access the pool. But exercise is a must for those with lung disease.

Getting regular exercise is the key to improvement. “People with COPD need to exercise a minimum of 20 to 30 minutes a week — and ideally for 40 minutes five times a week,” says Frank C. Sciurba, M.D., director of the Pulmonary Function Exercise Physiology Laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Montefiore Hospital in Pennsylvania.

Exercise helps maintain muscle strength. The lungs are supported by muscles that allow them to move up and down when you breathe in and out. The diaphragm and intercostal muscles work together to move air in and out of your lungs. The intercostal muscles expand the rib cage and the diaphragm pushes the lungs up and down. When these muscles are strong, it creates a better flow of oxygen in and carbon dioxide out.

If you have COPD symptoms, especially shortness of breath, exercise may seem daunting. Pulmonary rehabilitation (PR) may be the best start for many individuals that have lung disease.

Therapy is designed to help you better understand your breathing, learn how to live better with your condition, and improve your strength, stamina and endurance. And ultimately, PR improves feelings of low energy, and increases the ability to exercise and stay active and helps to reduce shortness of breath.

Due to shortness of breath, many people avoid activities, hobbies, and exercise. But limiting activity and avoiding exercise leads to a deconditioned state which places more demand on the lungs and heart, and in turn causes a vicious cycle of more shortness of breath during activity.

PR exercise training interrupts this cycle and helps you get in shape and be more active with less shortness of breath. But if you’re too deconditioned, pulmonary therapy might start in the water.

And that can be inconvenient for those on supplemental oxygen because it involves being tethered to a land-based oxygen tank while performing water exercises.

The good news for pool exercisers and pulmonary therapy, there’s a new device that allows an oxygen tank to float.

“OxyFloats is a unique lightweight simple flotation device designed to carry one small portable oxygen tank so a person using supplemental oxygen can easily be in a pool with their tank floating alongside them,” says Sherri Erickson, president of OxyFit Inc., (makers of OxyFloats) in a press release statement.

“OxyFloats is revolutionary,” says Christine Epperson, ACE Certified Personal Trainer and Aqua Exercise Certified. “People on supplemental oxygen who have felt limited and unable to participate in exercise now have a solution. The OxyFloats offers the ability to move with freedom, making it possible to enjoy things like water aerobics, aqua-therapy and recreational time with family and friends.”

“It’s a big deal to be able to use the pool like everyone else but the real big deal is that this accommodation allows people depended upon oxygen to continue exercising aerobically in the water when you can no longer be done on land now anyone can freely move and feel better in the water,” says Erickson.

“Our pulmonary rehab is designed to help you learn how to live better with your condition, and improve your strength, stamina and endurance,” says Heather Szmigiel, administrator for Port Charlotte Rehabilitation Center, a local facility specializing in the active and aging population.

Szmigiel says their pulmonary rehab provides information that will help you better understand and manage your breathing problem, and their supervised exercise classes will gradually help you “get in shape” — so that you can complete your daily activities and exercise with more ease and less shortness of breath.

For more information regarding pulmonary rehabilitation, call Port Charlotte Rehabilitation Center, 25325 Rampart Blvd., Port Charlotte, at 941-235-8011.

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