Examining the Aquatic Exercise Association’s Fitness Programs

Arthritis is an affliction often associated with old age, but in reality it can impact individuals across generational boundaries. According to the CDC, there are an estimated 294,000 children under the age of 18 suffering from some form of arthritis, while an estimated 62% of adults with arthritis are under the age of 65. There is no known cure for arthritis, but there are many proven methods of managing the condition and coping with the pain so that you are able to lead a full life.

The Aquatic Exercise Association (AEA) is a nonprofit organization that follows evidence-based programs from the Arthritis Foundation in assisting those suffering from arthritis, including the Arthritis Foundation Aquatic Program (AFAP) and the Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program (AFEP).

AEA Standards
The AEA uses the Arthritis Foundation Program Leader Resource Manual (1st Edition) as a guide for its exercise programs as it covers the evidence-based AFAP and AFEP options. There are chapters in the manual on medical aspects of treatment, the development of relevant classes, examples of exercises and activities, and lesson planning and teaching tips. The 300-plus page manual covers the key concepts, offers summary and review questions, and helps the AEA understand and apply the content to programs used in the pool and on land.

Recently, the AEA launched a new, revised AEA Arthritis Program Leader Training Course to prepare individuals to work with those who are battling arthritis, in the pool and on land, as course leaders trained in AFAP and AFEP. The AEA assumed the responsibility of managing these exercise programs for the Arthritis Foundation.

Basics of the AFAP
The AFAP is a warm-water exercise program (83-92 degrees required) that features stretching, breathing, and light aerobic activities for those dealing with arthritis. The program is designed to help individuals reduce fatigue, pain, and stiffness while improve mobility, muscle strength, and coordination in a fun and safe environment.

To maintain alignment, balance, and stability, supportive equipment such as the Nekdoodle, kickboards, noodles, and noodle bars are used during walking activities, as a progression for standing exercises, and during the stretch and relaxation component of the course. Resistance equipment, such as webbed gloves or mitts, is also used to provide arm, hand, and shoulder exercise progression.

AFAP courses must be led by health and fitness professionals who have completed a multi-component training program that includes web-base and in-person courses. As the exercise programs are held in community pools and aquatic centers, the individual leaders must be CPR and lifeguard certified.

For those wondering about the effectiveness of the AFAP program, three randomized trials with osteoarthritis patients found that AFAP improved flexibility, strength, aerobic fitness, physical function, and most of all, general quality of life.

Basics of the AFEP
Originally referred to as People with Arthritis Can Exercise (PAC), the new AFEP program is a group recreational fitness class that was developed by the Arthritis Program, and now supported and run by the AEA.

The goal of AFEP is to help those with arthritis safely increase their physical activity levels. The program is ideally designed for those with chronic arthritis who can benefit from a more active lifestyle, but can be tailored to meet the needs of a range of individuals at different ability levels.

Previous studies have found that participants have experienced reduced pain from arthritis, less fatigue within 8 weeks, and increased self-efficacy, physical function, and improvements in overall symptoms by six months.

IAFC Sessions with Nekdoodle
Beginning on Tuesday May 10th, there will be a day-long specialty training and leadership development program from the AEA. Among those is the Program Leader Development session (101), which includes work with Nekdoodle®. The Nekdoodle® is a swimming aid that is excellent for use in water fitness, recreation, and aquatic therapy courses, and is popular with all ages. For more information, contact Nekdoodle®