To the water babies of the world, getting into the pool - whether for fun or exercise - isn't a question. That innate desire some people have to dive into the deep end isn’t without reason: swimming comes with a variety of mental and physical benefits that can enjoyed even when mobility is limited. Swimming and even just floating in water offers relief from pain, improves muscle strength, increases range of motion and provides a relaxing environment. Whether you’re limited due to age, injury, surgery or illness, aquatic therapy can offer a versatile range of benefits. Let's break down just how it works.
The "weightlessness" you feel when submersed in water is called buoyancy and, simply put, it’s the upward push created by how much water you've displaced. But you don't need to have a Eureka! moment to reap its benefits, which include less pressure on your joints when engaging in movements such as jumping, running and walking.
This study conducted by the Department of Physical Therapy at East Carolina University found a
significant improvement in range of motion, decreased pain and overall increased function in patients suffering from rheumatic disease. Patients with this type of chronic pain aren't alone in finding relief with aquatic therapy. Physical therapy in water is ideal for anyone in recovery from injury or surgery, for individuals with age-related mobility issues and for those who have chronic pain, because it greatly reduces the risk of further damage to muscles, joints or ligaments.
Some evidence suggests that patients with Parkinson’s see better improvements in stability and balance when exposed to water therapy over therapy on land.
Improved Muscle Function
Because water is about 50 times more viscous than air, moving through it can feel a bit like moving
Resistance bands such as these don’t require a pool to provide similar benefits. Use light resistance bands to experience drag similar to what you experience in water, and heavier resistance bands to increase strength and flexibility even further.
Improved Circulation & Cardiovascular Health
Exercise is good for the heart, but as this study shows, water immersion in and of itself leads to lowered blood pressure and heart rate. Warm water additionally promotes vasodilation, which improves circulation, delivering an increased amount of oxygen to vital organs and extremities. Improved circulation heals damaged tissues, and improved peripheral circulation can be especially beneficial for patients with diabetes. The pressure water exerts on the body also has mental benefits such as increased feelings of wellbeing and added relaxation.
Combined, you’ll find an enormous boost to the benefits you’ll reap from exercise alone.
While right on the heels of our last point, we felt it was important to make the distinction and give stress-reduction its own mention. Most people agree that the pool provides a relaxing atmosphere that improves their overall feelings of wellbeing, but this tends to be one of the most overlooked benefits of aquatic therapy.
Your mental wellbeing is an important aspect of your physical health, and water therapy is able to provide a year-round approach to getting you back to and keeping you on the right track.