Foam dumbbells. About an inch-and-a-half to
two inches wide, foam dumbbells have cushioned
handles, so they’re easy to grip. They also help
people maintain their balance while they’re pedaling
or moving around with water belts.
Kati Ritchie, 66, says dumbbells are great for
building muscle, too. Ritchie has had MS for 30
years. “We don’t put our heads under water; we just
roll our shoulders, stretch, reach and twist,” she
elaborated. The result: more body awareness and
Water noodles. In Denk’s class, participants use
water noodles to build strength. “We’ll push the
noodles down into the water for resistance or use
them to enhance flexibility,” she elaborated. When
they’re first introduced to aquatic exercise, some
students rely on the noodles for balance as well.
Jane Boulware, 62, discovered that walking in
water wasn’t as easy as it first appeared. “I felt as
if my legs were encased in concrete and I couldn’t
really hold my balance,” she said. But with time
and practice, Boulware was able to make her way
across the pool unassisted.
Resistance balls. Resistance is key to building muscle, and these six-inch balls are perfect for
working flexibility and range of motion. When a
person pushes the ball under water, the resistance
helps to build strength.
“We also toss them to one another,” Boulware
laughed. “It really is fun.”
Using the balls can also strengthen abdominal
muscles, which Denk advises are critical for stand-
Water steps. Much like the steps used on land
for aerobics, water steps promote strength, coordination and balance. “When you step up on one
in the water, you’re adding gravity, so it takes away
a little of that buoyancy,” Denk said. “It’s excellent for strengthening your stepping up and down
Wave webs and hand paddles. These are like
gloves with webbing that can increase resistance for
upper extremity work.
An opportunity to play—and share
“I used to do so many sports, and now I can’t really
do any of them,” Boulware said. “The water allows
me to move in ways that are enjoyable again.” An
aquatics class also provides a forum for people to
share their experiences related to MS. There’s a
sense of camaraderie and support. Kati Ritchie said
that her class sometimes breaks out in song.
Washing away the pain
A water workout’s greatest benefit, all agreed, is
its ability to ease aches and pains while enhancing
range of motion. Ritchie once relied on weekly
massages and medication to manage painful muscle
spasms. After participating in the class for a few
weeks, her spasms have improved enough that she
now relies less on her medication. Denk mentioned
another student who hadn’t been able walk up stairs
for two years, but who reported managing to do so
after participating in her aquatics class.
Amy Paturel, MS, MPH, is a freelance health writer in
For more information or to purchase equipment, visit www.watergear.com.
For information about aquatics programs near
you, call us at 1-800-344-4867.