Discover the Power of Water: Transforming Fitness and Well-being Through Aquatic Exercise
What better way to spend the dog days of summer than hanging out by the pool? Of course, it’s nice to relax by the water, but have you ever considered an exercise program IN the water?
Who would benefit from an aquatic exercise program?
EVERYONE! But studies do show that individuals with the following conditions would be great candidates: osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, low back pain, fibromyalgia, and obesity (to name a few!)
Why is an aquatic exercise program beneficial?
Due to the buoyancy of the water, compressive forces on the joints are significantly lessened. So, an exercise that may be too painful to perform on land (i.e., squats, lunges, or step-ups), maybe more tolerable in the water. Although there is less compression on the joints, the added drag force of the water creates resistance which can aid in strength training. Aquatic exercise has been shown to improve muscular strength and flexibility, as well as reduce stiffness and improve joint range of motion.
Along with the musculoskeletal benefits, research shows a reduction in pain with consistent participation in aquatic exercise. Most notably, warm water can help quiet an overactive nervous system, reducing pain signals- and I mean, who doesn’t want less pain in their life? The hydrostatic pressure created by water can help reduce swelling at the most distal joints of the body and create better circulatory flow.
So, how do I get started?
JUMP RIGHT IN! (Or slowly ease your way into the water!) I recommend starting in the shallow end; spend a few minutes just walking, pushing through the resistance of the water. Think about “heel–toe” walking. You can then progress to side-stepping, backward walking, or marching! Adding strength-based exercise at the edge of the pool is great, too! You can try squats, calf raises, backward/side kicking, and lunges. If you want to get your heart rate up, you could alternate these exercises with 30 seconds of kicking at the pool's edge or treading water.
Studies show that consistent participation in aquatic exercise (2-3x/week) over the course of 12+ weeks results in benefits.
Thank you to Julia Tranquillo, PT, DPT, OCS for providing this blog information!
Faíl LB, Marinho DA, Marques EA, et al. Benefits of aquatic exercise in adults with and without chronic disease—a systematic review with meta‐analysis. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports. 2021;32(3):465-486. doi:10.1111/sms.14112
Barker A, Talevski J, Morello R, Brand C, Rahmann A, Urquhart D. Effectiveness of aquatic exercise for musculoskeletal conditions: A meta-analysis. Physiotherapy. 2015;101. doi:10.1016/j.physio.2015.03.250
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