Water is a safe, fun and uniquely challenging environment in which to exercise; it displaces up to 80% of a person’s weight (buoyancy effect) which makes it easier to move in water and provides the body’s joints with extra space which contributes to better range of motion and therefore ability. Muscle toning and strengthening becomes possible in the water for people who experience significant pain and dysfunction when attempting exercise on land: this includes arthritic conditions, overweight individuals as well as spinal conditions and injuries.
The hydrostatic pressure of water is also greatly beneficial to circulation: it assists the body in venous return, takes some stress off the heart and can help in decreasing swelling in the body, especially the extremities (legs and arms). The warm temperature of the water also contributes to better blood supply to the whole body which means there is more oxygen being delivered to the body as a whole and thus the body’s natural healing processes get a boost.
Exercising in water is also a total body workout – the lungs and intercostal muscles have to work a bit harder in the water so respiratory rate increases while at the same time heart rate is naturally decreased so the stress on the heart is much less with more oxygen going round the body – and it feels mostly effortless.
In addition, there are specific motion techniques the biokineticist uses such as Bad Ragaz, active assisted and active resisted movements and incorporation of proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretching patterns. A combination of all these exercises and movements make up a hydrotherapy session which means it is also of benefit to children with special needs such as spina bifida and cerebral palsy as well as adults with spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, ankylosing spondylitis, joint rehab post-surgery – almost anything will benefit from being in the water.
And you don’t have to know how to swim; the biokineticist is in the pool during the session to assist, demonstrate and carry out the various stretch and movement patterns.
Information adapted from:
– Introduction to Hydrotherapy Course (2009) by Dr G Joubert
– The Benefits of Aqua Aerobics Exercise from www.aerobicsworkout.net/aqua-aerobics-exercise.php
– Benefits of Water Aerobics from www.squidoo.com/benefits-of-water-aerobics