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Exploring the 'Aaah' ... $1 Million Grant Advances Aquatic Health Research

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., March 19 /PRNewswire/ -- Thanks to a $1 million grant from the National Swimming Pool Foundation (NSPF), Washington State University researchers plan to create the National Aquatics and Sports Medicine Institute.

"This will be the world's premiere center for aquatic health research," says the institute director, Dr. Bruce Becker, a physician and research professor in WSU's College of Education. "There is no other lab with this mission and focus. The addition of the foundation's $1 million grant gives us tremendous movement forward." Becker and Assistant Professor Kasee Hildenbrand want to find ways to make the most of aquatic exercise. "We intend to build on our initial research and fill the knowledge gaps of how water benefits our hearts, lungs and endocrine systems."

Judy Mitchell, dean of the College, said that creation of the institute will build upon WSU's reputation for world-class research. "This research is driven by the need to know more about the effects of aquatic exercise not only on general health and well being, but on specific medical conditions such as asthma, hypertension, osteoporosis, and obesity," Mitchell noted.

The NSPF has supported Becker's research for three years. This latest grant will pay for staff and equipment, allowing the researchers to create NASMI. Becker works alongside Hildenbrand, who teaches in the College's movement studies program and directs its athletic training education program.

In the last four years, the NSPF has given more than $1.5 million to institutions of higher learning. Those grants focus on the understanding of aquatic health benefits and on prevention of drowning, illness, and injury. "We are committed to creating centers of excellence that will influence society," said Thomas M. Lachocki, CEO of the foundation. "Research in aquatics has been a dry basin. ... WSU is the key to open the flood gate."

The researchers' first respiratory study compared the effects of exercise on land to exercise in the water. Hildenbrand will incorporate the aquatics research findings into WSU's athletic training program so its graduates have a sound scientific basis for the exercise advice they give to clients. "The lab links physiology, education, and athletics in ways that have opened collaborative opportunities throughout WSU and with other universities," said Hildenbrand.

As it is, a lot of advice given in the sports world is not evidence-based. For example, Becker said, football players spend time in chiller tanks after practice because they say it makes their legs feel better. "I have a gut feeling it works, but there is no science looking into the physical effects of standing waist-deep in 52-degree water for 45 minutes," he said. "We can measure things like blood flow, muscle oxygen delivery, and other measures that can really make chiller tank immersion more beneficial." Becker's goal goes far beyond educating the athletic community. "We need medical professionals to understand and use the benefits of aquatic exercise. The public needs to know also because you can safely do it on your own," he said.

Becker first became excited about aquatic rehabilitation when he worked in Eugene, Oregon, and saw how much it helped injured Olympic runners. But he was dismayed that there had been little research into its effects since before astronauts were sent into space. "Immersion is as close to weightlessness as there is on Earth," he said. Becker is fascinated by the mental as well as physical benefits of immersion. "Water exercise rivals meditation," he said. "You feel good, better than you do with other exercise. I want to find out what that 'aaah' is about."

SOURCE National Swimming Pool Foundation
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