Healthy Edge: Water Therapy at Water’s Edge Fitness Center

By Max Jaques

Being forced to sit all day makes it tough to maintain strength and flexibility.

That’s something 14-year-old Max Jaques knows better than most boys his age. The Dalles teenager spends his days in a wheelchair. He’s been unable to walk on his own for the past two years because his muscles are deteriorating from the effects of Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

The lack of exercise in his daily life makes Max’s visits to the warm, salt-water therapy pool at Water’s Edge Fitness Center significant.

“It makes me feel good,” says Max, who likes to swim around and kick his legs in the pool. “It’s refreshing to me.”

Max’s parents, Chris and Angie Jaques, take their son to Water’s Edge and join him in the pool about twice a week for 30-minute evening sessions.

“When he gets to the pool, he‘s able to stand and move his legs like he is walking,” Chris explains.

The couple also stretch Max’s body while he’s in the pool because the warm water is gentle on his muscles and joints.

Chris says the water exercise helps Max maintain his strength and range of motion as well as his overall health.

“We want to keep Max healthy as long as we can and we believe this is helping,” his father says.

It’s an activity the family gets to share after Max was awarded a scholarship to the center from the Mid-Columbia Health Foundation. He is one of 95 people who have received a total of $20,100 in scholarships toward Water’s Edge memberships since 2011.

Max says “it’s a privilege,” to receive the scholarship. His parents agree. Some of Max’s medical needs aren’t covered by Chris’ insurance, and his wages as a letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Service don’t always stretch as far as he’d like.

It would be difficult for the couple to afford the complete membership themselves, yet they know the advantages of it.

“We want him to live as long as possible and enjoy his life as much as he can and we think this is a big part of that,” Chris says.

The Jaques family appreciates the center’s accommodation of those with medical conditions. They praise the pool lift, which makes it easier to lower Max into the pool, and the spacious, disabled-accessible shower in the locker rooms.

While Water’s Edge has a staff that can cater to those who need physical therapy or have been referred by a physician, it’s open to the general public as well — no matter their state of fitness or lack thereof, says Martina Rizzo, director of health and wellness operations.

“We’re here to meet people exactly where they are on their journey towards a healthier life, ” she says.

Some members are training for triathlons while others may need to exercise under supervision until they’re no longer winded. And there are members at many other levels of fitness in between.

Some members also come to the center for the social interaction they get when two friends walk side-by-side on treadmills and can talk with one another. Or they join a group fitness class for the camaraderie.

Rizzo says the goal of her staff, which includes personal trainers, certified instructors and exercise specialists, is to make everyone feel welcome at the fitness center.

“I think sometimes people get intimidated because they think they have to be fit or they don’t belong here,” she says. In reality, she and her staff want to help people set fitness goals, reach them and set new goals.

“The building block of our facility is to educate people about the value of exercise,” Rizzo says. “We try to help people make investment in their health a priority.”

Need help paying for your membership?

The Mid-Columbia Health Foundation awards Water’s Edge Fitness Center scholarships based on medical and financial need. Applications are available at Water’s Edge, 551 Lone Pine Blvd in The Dalles.

Ready to join?

Water’s Edge is offering some new short-term options for joining its Fitness Center in addition to its 6- and 12-month memberships for individuals, families and couples.

Call 541.506.5779 for prices and terms.

In addition, day passes are $15 for access to all of the facilities and classes, or a $10 drop-in pass is available for group exercise classes.s.