Healing Veterans Using Water Therapy - VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System
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VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System


Healing Veterans Using Water Therapy

Vietnam Navy Veteran Otis Harris at YMCA Aqua Worx Pool Class to improve health.

Vietnam Navy Veteran Otis Harris at YMCA Aqua Worx Pool Class to improve health.

By VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System Public Affairs
Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System is expanding partnerships within the community to use local resources not available at the VA to provide health and wellness alternatives Veterans.

Pool therapy is an exercise alternative designed to increase flexibility and mobility while keeping joint impact to a minimum. One recent VASNHS initiative is taking advantage of the Las Vegas-area YMCA’s water exercise classes. Held at the YMCA’s Centennial Hills Community Center and the Sky View YMCA indoor pools, Veterans can take advantage of four high energy low-impact classes.

With motivational workout music pumping in the background, Aquatic Exercise Association-certified instructor Pamela Corney gets her classes’ hearts beating through a series of cardiovascular stretches and exercise using water as resistance. At a comfortable 90 degrees Corney uses the water as therapy to train Veterans and the community at various levels to increase their balance and mobility.

A former national-level inline indoor speed skater, Corney became involved in Aquatic exercise after using the therapy to heal from a major injury. "When Otis Harris came into my aquatic exercise class (at the YMCA of Southern Nevada) three years ago he became a regular and dedicated participant who eagerly accepted challenge and work to exceed them I noticed. I watched him transform and listened to him say how much he loved working in the water. One day he came in and was overjoyed telling me he was thrilled having heard great news from his doctor who said ALL of his numbers were 'down' from blood pressure, cholesterol to sugar and more. He attributed his news that day to my class and I told him that it's because he is doing the work, having so much fun working and laughing at the same time that it was he who earned those results," said Corney.

One beneficiary of Corney’s classes is Paul Kelley, a 14-year Air Force security forces Veteran was recently discharged from VASNHS Chiropractic Clinic. He recently participated in his first class to learn how to regain his balance, strength and mobility. Aqua therapy is a self-paced program and as Kelley recuperates and is better able to use his muscles and joints, he can slowly graduate up to higher levels of advanced aquatic exercises. At the other end of the spectrum is Veteran Otis Harris who uses aqua therapy to reduce medication and improve both his physical and mental health. A six-year U.S. Navy and Vietnam Veteran who debriefed pilots following combat missions, Harris incorporated in-pool running and agility training into his personal flight plan three years ago when his health took a turn for the worst due to diabetes and obesity. Today he participates in Power Aqua Fitness and uses specialized equipment to run in the pool and increase both his speed and balance. Harris credits the pool therapy, combined with the assistance he receives from VASNHS Endocrinologist Dr. Charmaine Yap, to the loss of 10 inches off his waist and more than 30 pounds. As a result, he has also reduced medications for blood pressure and diabetes, and improved all levels of health across the board, receiving an A+ for improvement from Doctor Yap.

“Pam is so dedicated she makes us work harder, and Doctor Yap is tough, but I like her as she keeps me on track,” Harris said. “I really like the care I receive at the VA and am in better shape now than when I was younger,” said Mr. Harris.

Harris isn’t the only one in his family who benefits from water therapy. His wife of 51 years, Tisha take classes with him at the YMCA. According to the couple, the pool therapy classes have allowed both of them to be more involved in community and other pool participants have become like family to them. "When Otis and Tish Harris came into my aqua classes three years ago I noticed they were enjoying working out in the water.  So much so that as we got to know one another their keen interest led to our many conversations about the aquatic industry and how it and my instructing applies to them.  They attended my classes regularly, perfected their form and achieved various positive results,” said Corney.

The YMCA offers four programs designed to get people moving with aqua therapy, Aqua Worx, Arthritic Splash, Aquafit, Power Aqua Fitness and Aqua Zumba. Veterans should ask their VA primary care team or other health provider about the aqua therapy programs at the YMCA. Locally, due to their partnership with the VASNHS, there is a fee waiver for Veterans and 50 percent off the monthly fee with no contracts. See more at the YMCA website: http://www.lasvegasymca.org/programs/aquatics/water-fitness-classes


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