3 Ways Hydrotherapy Pools Can Ease Your Aches And Pains

Photo: Ershov_Maks/Getty Images

Taking the waters, right at home? Hydrotherapy pools might be an answer to easing the wear-and-tear on the body as we age.


Yes, the pyramids were thrilling, and the Sphinx made me miss my cats. But my most memorable moment during a recent Egypt visit was the thalasso (Greek for “sea”) spa at the Westin Soma Bay Golf Resort & Spa in Hurghada overlooking Soma Bay on the Red Sea. After several days spent dutifully admiring hypostyle temples and hieroglyphics, this was a heavenly introduction to hydrotherapy. The 8,000-square foot seawater facility comprises several zones with water jets, currents and counter-currents, showers and bubbling baths, from the high-pressure shower drilling onto my scalp to geysers shooting up at the soles of my feet. It took a good two hours to traverse these Stations of the Cross for the Temple of the Body.

Until then, hydrotherapy had only dimly registered as the bigger cousin of my disused whirlpool bathtub. True, I had seen what home aquatics money can buy in 2013 when I was hired as script writer for the Sotheby’s International Realty YouTube video promoting a house listed at $5.9 million. The five-bedroom 10,215-square foot, Ray Murakami-designed Ye Olde English country inn-inspired manse, just east of the Bridle Path, was a Toronto Life Home of the Week.

The ground floor featured an exercise pool with three tiers of jets. The pool sits above the slate-tiled floor and measures 11 feet in diameter and 6.5 feet deep. French doors open to the boxwood garden; a dedicated air-handling system keeps chlorine smells from wafting around the house. And, if mobility is a concern, “It’s easy to transfer from a wheelchair and get down the steps inside the pool,” the owner explained.

1. Non-impact. To counteract water immersion’s anti-gravity effect, she would don a water vest “that gives you neutral buoyancy, so you can stand and jog without touching the bottom, and the exercise is completely non-impact. Half an hour of jogging in water is worth an hour on land from a cardiovascular point of view.”

Her words about the benign, non-impact aspect of aquafit exercise struck a note. I used to wind-sprint around the park two blocks from home, running fast enough to notice the metallic taste of blood at the back of my throat, a common, harmless symptom of the left ventricle not quite pumping quickly enough. I was shedding body fat for the first time in 30 years, but just as my six-pack was starting to emerge, I had to quit. Despite New Balance’s best running shoes and my avoidance of hard asphalt or concrete surfaces, the recurrent pounding on my knees and ankles made them hurt too much. I’m sure many of you can relate.

2. And it can be affordable. So I was all ears when Cynthia Henderson, registered interior designer, intern architect and principal at aging-in-place specialists Culver and Henderson Building Design, said, “Let’s talk about pools and how little you can get away with.” Her firm’s pools have appeared in Canadian House and Home; Chatelaine; and Schiffer Publishing’s Hot Tubs & Spas: An Inspirational Design Guide.

She’s brandishing photos of a client’s outdoor dip pool, 10 feet long, 10 feet wide and five feet deep, installed by Gib-San Pools, where the back garden serves as a spa and sanctuary. “We put two jets in that you can’t swim up to, they’re that strong; you’re getting a workout.” Another project is a 14 feet long x 10 feet wide indoor pool. “You can get the kit for $15,000.” (The outdoor concrete pool costs about $25,000 plus landscaping.) Small jets along the perimeter revitalize, sooth and relieve pain. “Water that’s moving stimulates the touch receptors on the skin, increasing blood circulation and releasing tight muscles. As the water gently kneads your body, it feels like a massage.”

3. Multi-gen appeal. A kit pool like the one described above features clean, minimalist lines that benefit from the lack of the customary rainbow shower head atop a tall column housing the water conduit. In its place, Henderson recommends a residential splash pad like the ones that keep children laughing and cavorting at public pools, where the water spray shoots up from below like a Whack-a-mole.

“You just walk on it,” she says. “They go quite high, up to five feet. You’ll cool off.”

Why should kids have all the fun? Go ahead—jump in.

The Gear

Luckily for us, the athleisure trend lends fashionable form and function to the latest suits. 

Lap time
Integrated underwire and strategical stripes give support, while side panels add a slimming effect. Blue Lagoon Finja one-piece, Rosa Faia, Anita Canada, www.anita.com/en_global


Soak it up
Post workout, soothe your muscles and aid circulation with a bath infused with mineral salts. Au Natural Dead Sea Bath Salts with Avocado and Argan oils, Beautitude, beautitude.ca

Playing pool
A 15-centimetre inseam allows for just the right amount of movement and modesty. Bulldog Roc Pool Photographic mid-length swim shorts, Orlebar Brown, Holt Renfrew

A version of this article appeared in the September 2017 issue with the headline, “Aqua Therapy,” p. 85-86.