Written by: Shani Fowler
It is important for us to exercise; exercise has so many benefits to our bodies as well as our general well-being. Exercising regularly can reduce the risk or many major illnesses such as heart disease, strokes, diabetes and even some cancers. Not everyone finds it easy to exercise though for many reasons. People can suffer from certain conditions that prevent them from being suited to traditional exercise. Water therapy (also called aquatic or pool therapy) in these circumstances can often help by providing a gentle exercise plan.
What is water therapy?
Water therapy is an exercise program undertaken immersed in the water. It can be beneficial with a variety of medical conditions and the properties of water can help patients to heal and exercise simultaneously.
What is so good about it?
Water therapy has a natural benefit in that the buoyancy it provides assists in supporting a person in the water, thereby reducing the amount of weight bearing loaded on the joints. Exercising in the water can increase your flexibility and range of motions without the stress to joints that the more traditional exercises will apply. Not just the water itself but the warmth of the water can have beneficial properties too.
The warmth can relax and condition the muscles, and benefit people who suffer from muscle spasms by assisting blood flow to injured or affected areas. It can feel very therapeutic. Water therapy can be undertaken as part of a physical therapy program or your local health club or gym may run a water therapy or aqua gym class.
Who can water therapy help?
Most of us can undertake a water therapy exercise program if you just wanted a gentle exercise routine, but water therapy can be particularly beneficial to people suffering from arthritis and osteoporosis (including people who are recovering from bone fractures). It is often used as part of a recovery for people who have had joint replacement surgery. Also, people who suffer from other conditions involving muscle and joint pain such as fibromyalgia, could benefit from water therapyIn addition to these conditions water therapy is often a recommended exercise for people with diabetes and high blood pressure, and people who are overweight or who have not exercised regularly for some time acting as a gradual reintroduction to exercise.
Exercises can include walking, running, jumping and kicking in the water but because these are not weight bearing exercises you would need to gradually add other exercises to develop the strength in the bones.
A few tips for exercising in the water:-
If you haven’t exercised for a while, consider using a physical therapist or qualified instructor at first, at least until you get into the swing of it. Start slowly and build up. Resist the temptation to thrash yourself around the pool in the first instance. Walk around in the water at first and then build into mini jog.
Try to choose a pool that will immerse your body from somewhere around the waistline to the chest area. The more you are immersed the more resistance you will feel. Make sure you are happy with the level of the water. Wearing pool shoes will help you feel more confident as you run along the floor. Floatation devices such as rubber rings or arm bands will create more resistance and allow you to get more out of the session.
Although water therapy is an excellent way to gently exercise not everyone is suited to it, people with fevers or infection or those with certain cardiac diseases should not undertake a water therapy program nor anyone with bowel or bladder conditions. As with anything linked with health issues, if you are in doubt it is always best to check it out with your GP before embarking upon a new exercise regime.