Aquatic therapy is beneficial for everyone – but it’s especially helpful for those with disabilities, chronic illness, injuries, or a neurological disease. Water exercises are extremely low impact, making them great for our bones and joints. Plus, water has long been considered good for the mind, so it’s a great workout for the spirit, too.
Top 4 Benefits of Aquatic Therapy
1. Increase Muscle Strength – Because water is 600-700 times more resistive than air, muscles can strengthen quicker. Resistance exercises in the pool can be more effective than those done on land.
2. Less Pain – Water is better for the joints and is known to alleviate pain associated with inflammation that can occur post-surgery or from chronic illness.
3. Better Mobility – When exercises are done in warm water, muscles can relax so that you can stretch and move with greater comfort. It can also help ward off life-threatening post-surgical conditions. According to U.P. Rehab Services, “Hydrostatic pressure in the pool decreases post-surgical edema by increasing blood and lymphatic flow and driving nutrients to the healing tissues.”
4. Improved Balance – The uniform pressure of the water along with buoyancy provides support to your body, which allows you increased time to react without the fear of falling or getting hurt. This benefit makes it ideal for those with Parkinson’s Disease.
Who Can Benefit from Aquatic Exercise?
People recovering from surgery or from an injury can greatly benefit from aquatic therapy. Exercising in the water is known to have lasting effects for children and those with disabilities as well.
Children – Aqua therapy is excellent for children who are developing motor skills. Because they can move in a weightless space (the pool) they can work muscle groups and joints more than they could on land. It also provides socialization for children who perform exercises in a group and can help them develop positive body awareness.
Those with Cerebral Palsy – People who have cerebral palsy can benefit from all types of therapy, but water allows CP patients to hydrate their bodies, thus revitalizing their musculoskeletal system. The weightlessness that water provides is also beneficial and allows those with cerebral palsy to practice balance in a safe environment.
Brain and Spinal Cord Injury Patients – Studies have shown that aquatic therapy enhances recovery efforts for people with traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries. Water can help strengthen muscles and develop motor coordination – even in patients who are weak, paralyzed or partially paralyzed. In addition, warm water can help alleviate anxiety and provide a calming environment, further helping those with brain injuries. Balance exercises, essential to those with neurological conditions, can be performed safely in water, and helps patients be less afraid of falling.
Autistic Individuals – Children and adults with autism need calm and non-stimulating environments to thrive. Warm water can help children learn in an environment where they can experience exercise without the stress of too much stimulation. Water can also help them develop a greater sense of wellbeing, and give them a chance to work muscles for greater mobility without stimulation and distractions typical on playgrounds or in gyms.
Tips for Starting an Aquatic Exercise Program
With so many benefits for any or all of your family members, let’s take a look at the steps of how you can get started with a new aquatic exercise program!
Start Online – If you’re looking for aquatic exercises for yourself or a loved one, your computer makes a great first stop. There are a number of online resources to help get you started, and for finding specific exercises which target certain disabilities and illnesses. Sparkpeople.com, for example, offers tips on aquatic exercise, including this great article featuring seven water exercises you can do easily in your pool.
Don’t Overlook YouTube – A simple search for aquatic exercise will yield substantial results, from a number of reputable physical therapy networks and hospitals. In addition, videos can help ensure you are following proper form and safety precautions for aquatic exercises.
When you’re ready to make a splash, get started by checking out physical therapy center and hospital websites in your area. Most offer aquatic exercise suggestions, in addition to information about the services they provide.
Check Credentials – Make sure that you’re seeking aquatic therapy from a certified professional. Usually, water therapy is performed by an occupational or physical therapist certified through the Aquatic Exercise Association (AEA). Look for therapists who carry the advanced AEA Aquatic Fitness Professional Certification.
Seek Doctor’s Approval – Most children and adults with disabilities, including those with cerebral palsy, can take part in water therapy programs as long as they are accompanied by a parent or other adult supervisor and doing exercises under the guidance of a professional. However, it is always best to check with your physician before starting therapy to ensure that all necessary precautions are being taken.