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The Water's Always Fine at Upper Valley Aquatic Center

By Pamela Sosnowski

At the Upper Valley Aquatic Center (UVAC) in Hartford, swimmers of all ages and abilities are invited to enjoy the pools year-round as well as get fit in the water in a friendly, supportive environment. Swimming can certainly be a fun and relaxing activity, but it is also an often underrated exercise that provides many health benefits.

"Both running and swimming are good for cardiovascular exercise," explains Rich Synnott, the center's Executive Director. "Running burns more calories but is also a high impact activity. That is good for increasing bone density but can lead to injury due to the repeated strain on soft tissue, back, knee and ankle joints. Swimming reduces your body weight by as much as 90% due to the buoyancy of the water. This reduces joint stress. Water also provides 800 times more resistance than air."

UVAC is a nonprofit organization that was founded in 2004 by a group of parents seeking an area aquatic center for swim teams to train. Today, the center's offerings have blossomed into a variety of swim classes, including private and group lessons, Red Cross certification training courses, and a Parent and Me class for babies as young as 6 months and their parents. Swimmers who wish to take advantage of the strength and cardiovascular training water activities provide can take classes such as Aqua Zumba, Fitness H20, Abs & Total Conditioning, and Deep Water Volleyball.

"Anyone can use the center," says Synnott. "We sell memberships for those who wish to come often, but day passes are sold as well for $7-$15 depending on age and residence. Day passes include participation in over 60 of the free group exercise classes we offer as well as our indoor water park - a big hit with children."

In addition to water classes, the center features a fully equipped fitness area for members and guests that houses cardio machines, weight machines, and free weights. More than 70 free fitness classes are also available to the center's members. Supplementing a swimming routine with other workouts is recommended for optimal fitness, suggests Synnott. "We do a lot of dry land strength exercises with our swim team and it really makes a difference."

As a nonprofit organization, UVAC is heavily involved with making water sports and fitness accessible to residents of the Upper Valley. They have donated hundreds of swim passes to local charities and have taught schoolchildren how to swim for free.

Additionally, the center helps contribute to a strong local economy. "We have an annual expense budget of over $2 million that provides jobs for our staff and associated business for area suppliers, vendors, and tradespeople," says Synnott. "We also host over 15 swim meets a year that bring in people from all over New England who spend an estimated $1.2 million on hotels, restaurants, gas, and tourist activities."

UVAC's mission is to make swimming accessible to all residents of the Upper Valley. The next time you feel like getting some exercise, grab your swimsuit, head to UVAC, and get ready to make a splash in your fitness routine!

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