Associate Professor in the School of Occupational Therapy Natalie Michaels started the Aquifit program seven years ago with students from Tennessee State University. The program provides aquatic exercise for older adults and promotes wellness, socialization and enjoyment. The program has demonstrated improved balance, weight loss and decreased pain in individuals with arthritis as the buoyancy in chest deep water provides assistive movement to antigravity muscles, as well as resistance to muscles that are gravity assisted on land.
Michaels is now including Belmont’s occupational and physical therapy students in the program. Students recently participated in the program at Del Webb Retirement Community and will do so again in April. The program is currently targeted to the older adult population, but the group plans to work with young adults with neuromuscular disabilities in the Metro Parks system next month and to eventually work with children with Down Syndrome.
Michaels said the community was impressed with the professionalism and intelligence of the Belmont students. “It’s been wonderful including students from two different disciplines in the activity. Having students from more than one perspective has made it a much more holistic experience both for the students and the participants,” she said. “There have also been community therapists from multiple disciplines assisting and a few faculty from other universities. I am extremely proud to work on this service activity with the OT and PT students from Belmont.”
Students who participated included occupational therapy students Alyssa Burlage, Amanda LaBonte, Jordyn Perry, Joseph Straatman, Jenae Stevens and Nicole Kmieciek and physical therapy students Brittany Ryan, Emmy Rice, Kelsey Marie Otten, Lindsey Schiller, Megan Rolfe and Shelly Witt.