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Local makes a splash with therapy combining water sports and healing

For Victoria Galletta, 'motion is lotion' and she wants to help as many people as she can continue to move

For years, water has been used as a means for healing and rejuvenation.

It is also a source of entertainment, sport and adventure — something people associate a sense of comfort and fond memories with.

Victoria Galletta is hoping to merge those characteristics and combine the natural benefits and familiarity of water to help as many people as she can.

“I just love meeting people, getting to know them and their story, and figuring out how I can help them,” said Galletta.

After graduating with a degree in Human Kinetics, Galletta went on to pursue a post graduate degree in exercise and lifestyle management. The Guelph native accepted a job at a clinic in Collingwood, and quickly realized the ever-increasing need for physiotherapy and movement-based rehabilitation, especially in an active community with a high number of retirees. She also realized that standard physiotherapy programs weren’t always the best option for everyone.

That’s where the water comes in.

Several years ago, Galletta experienced a knee injury of her own. She started seeing an aqua therapist, and was able to build back the strength in her joint with very minimal discomfort.

“I came out of the water and for once I felt so great, it was so surprising,” she said.

Galletta learned more about aquatic therapy in her postgraduate degree, and she tried to incorporate the benefits of the water into her sessions with clients at the clinic whenever possible. But with limited resources and a gap in funding for water-based rehab, she wasn’t able to capitalize on its benefits as much as she would like.

“The water provides an opportunity to do different things,” said Galletta. “Aqua therapy has become really popular in cities and bigger areas, but not here. I realized there was a need for it.”

In its simplest form, aqua therapy is physical therapy that takes place in a pool or some other aquatic environment under the supervision and guidance of a healthcare professional. The most common goals of the water-based therapy include improving balance, coordination and flexibility, building muscle strength and endurance, assisting with gait and locomotion and reducing stress and promoting relaxation.

According to Galletta, due to the lack of gravity in the water, people who are injured, disabled or otherwise not capable of comfortably or safely performing exercises on land, usually can do so in the water.

“For some people, they get to walk on their own or do a squat, something they haven’t been able to do in a long time,” said Galletta. “Seeing someone’s face light up when they can do something they haven’t been able to do on land… That is the absolute best feeling.”

The more she researched and received feedback from the few clients she was able to work with in the water, the more passionate she became. Galletta wanted to help as many people as she could, so she quit her job at the clinic last May and founded Pure Movement.

“I didn’t think I would love it this much, but I do,” said Galletta. “It’s so fun and it’s different every day.”

Galletta assesses each of her clients needs individually to get a baseline of their movement ability and then structures her sessions appropriately. She conducts her one-on-one sessions in different pools in the area — mainly the Centennial Aquatic Centre — but one day she dreams of opening her own facility.

“It’s very individualized, there is nothing across the board. I am learning everyday,” she said.

Galletta typically begins her sessions with a warm-up — some sort of cardio-based movement in the water —and then focuses on different muscle groups and mobility exercises. Galletta uses pool noodles, resistance bands and even something called a Nekdoodle to get creative with different movements and make sure her clients feel safe.

The buoyancy of the noodle, when placed under someone’s foot in the water, can act as a reverse squat as the client pushes their leg down and uses strength to control the noodle as it floats back up. She also can use pool noodles for passive shoulder flexes, or plays with the turbulence of the water to conduct balance exercises. Most of the movements are new to her clients, but they are pleasantly surprised when they find a modification for a movement they typically can’t do.

“Some people tense up in the water or get a bit scared. I can feel when they aren’t as relaxed,” said Galletta. “I talk to them the whole way through, explaining every move that we are doing and that I am here and nothing will happen.”

Galletta tries to finish every appointment with a floating session, incorporating mindful meditation to help her clients relax and unwind.

“In a floating position, they are 100 per cent non weight-bearing,” she said. “For five minutes they can completely relax and not feel gravity pushing down on them or the pain that they have been feeling.”

Of course, Galletta still faces some skepticism. But she is confident if she is able to get her clients to try at least one session, they will understand just how much she is able to help them.

“It’s so hard to describe to people,” said Galletta. “I find after the first appointment in the pool, that’s when clients really understand a bit more and start to enjoy it.”

Galletta understands there are some limitations to her business as well, and works with other local clinics that she can refer her clients to so they are getting the right help. And clinics have started referring their clients to check out Pure Movement as well.

“Physiotherapists and other health care professionals have sent me a ton of people. They think it’s really important to have something like this in the area,” she said.

Galletta is usually in and out of the pool at least four times a day, and depending on the clients’ needs, will see some people multiple times a week. While her business is still new, some of her clients have followed her from her days at the clinic, and she has been working with some for up to two years now.

Darren Lobb began working with Galletta at the clinic after being involved in a head-on vehicle collision a few years ago. He experienced several fractures in his right leg and wasn’t able to bear any weight on it, so Galletta suggested he try aqua therapy.

“A few of my friends who had been through the process said aqua therapy was the turning point for them, so I was gung-ho,” said Lobb. “I can walk around in the water without any kind of assistance — no canes, no crutches, no walkers, nothing.”

Lobb has been seeing Galletta twice a week consistently ever since, and has witnessed his strength grow bit by bit every day.

“What’s great about the water is you can still do strengthening exercises without having to bear the weight, so you get the full benefit of strengthening without paying the price of pain,” he said. “It keeps me active and moving, it is something I look forward to most in my weekly schedule.”

For Galletta, the most important thing is getting people into the water so they are able to move confidently and freely.

“There is a saying I like… ‘Motion is lotion,’” said Galletta. “Movement is so important, so if you can’t do it on land or with the restriction of gravity, find someplace you can. Just keep moving.”

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Maddie Johnson

About the Author: Maddie Johnson

Maddie Johnson is an early career journalist working in financial, small business, adventure and lifestyle reporting. She studied Journalism at the University of King's College, and worked in Halifax, Malta and Costa Rica before settling in Collingwood
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