Prescription for exercise gets patients a 2-week free trial at Bell Aliant Centre

Health-care professionals now have an added incentive to treat their patients with exercise thanks to a program from the Bell Aliant Centre.

Program encourages people to try the pool in treating their injuries

Doctors can prescribe two weeks free of pool time, which includes the ability to participate in an aquafit class at the Bell Aliant Centre in Charlottetown. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

Health-care professionals now have an added incentive to treat their patients with exercise thanks to a program from the Bell Aliant Centre.

The new program, Fitness as a Prescription (Fitness Rx), allows any registered health-care professional to prescribe a two-week all-access trial membership to the aquatics facility. Participants will have access to the hot tub, lane swims, open swims and 17 aqua fitness classes hosted each week.

Alice MacDougall says she was greatly helped by going to the pool in recovering from surgery. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

Some of the roughly dozen registered affiliates of the program include Charlottetown Physio, Sports Centre Physio, Hurricane Physio, Health PEI, Dr. Vincent Adams and Dr. Mike Sider.

"Everyone loves a chance to try something out without a financial barrier," said Shanahan Gardiner, the centre's director
of aquatics and programming. "It's a nice way to get an experience without that commitment right off the get-go to make sure it's the right fit for that person."

The Bell Aliant Centre is offering two weeks free for people who are given a prescription from a health-care professional. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

After two back surgeries and a shoulder replacement, Alice MacDougall wasn't able to exercise like she used to. 
She said time in the pool helped shed the weight she gained during her recovery and improved her mobility.

"When you exercise in the pool, it doesn't hurt any of your joints. You can do anything in the water, it's the same as being in space — it's wonderful for everything," she said.

The program has about a dozen affiliate providers so far, says Shanahan Gardiner, director of aquatics and programming for Bell Aliant Centre (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

After the trial, anyone interested in continuing will have to pay to use the facility but it's free for those over 80 years old.

Physiotherapist Edie Rodgers said prescribing pool time is ideal because the exercises are safe and patients can control the intensity of their workout based on how hard they push against the water. A number of conditions can benefit from water workouts, she said, including people recovering from a new hip or knee, long-term conditions, Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis and heart conditions.

"There's really nobody who couldn't benefit from pool therapy," she said.

Pretty much anyone can benefit from exercising in a pool, says Edie Rodgers, a physiotherapist at Charlottetown Physiotherapy. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

With files from Jessica Doria-Brown