Accelerate Physical Therapy

The Pros and Cons of Aquatic Exercising

Pools have provided several hours of fun for many people over the years. But, they also provide a healthy atmosphere for exercising and therapy for those who want to get or stay in shape. Structured water aerobics are available in community pools in most areas or, you can also take advantage of your own pool…or, a neighbor’s for some great exercise.

If you are in a structured class, the instructor will most likely stand on the deck so they can demonstrate their moves to the students. So, even beginners can participate. Equipment may, or may not be necessary…but, it is available, especially for deeper water classes. Pieces often used include flotation and resistance devices.

In other words, while it’s a great way to catch some extra sun, it can also be a great source of exercise and physical therapy. So, let’s take a look at some of the benefits, as well as disadvantages to aquatic exercising…

The Environment

If you have access to an outdoor pool, you will have the added benefit of getting some fresh air. But, in addition to that, the water will help keep the body at an appropriate temperature while exercising. This is especially beneficial to bodies that are not well-conditioned in the beginning and would have the tendency to overheat with exertion. Even with an indoor pool, the water should act as a regulator for your body temperature.

But, it will only benefit in maintaining a healthy body temperature, if the water is not too hot or too cold. Of course personal preference plays a role, but the ideal water temperature for a healthy workout should be between 78°F and 86°F.

Losing Weight

As with any form of exercise, water aerobics and therapy will burn calories. Losing weight requires burning more calories than you consume. And, aquatic exercising can help you do just that. It doesn’t matter if it’s swimming laps, an aerobics class, or if you are following exercises given to you by a physical therapist.

Just keep in mind, if your efforts in the pool are for losing weight, it’s recommended that you perform a minimum of 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week.

Low Impact on the Joints and Muscles

Perhaps one of the biggest benefits of aquatic exercise is that it has low impact on the joints. In fact, it is often recommended by physicians and physical therapists to patients with arthritis and others with painful joints and muscles. Here is why…

  • Buoyancy – Water provides buoyancy, which eliminates a lot of stress on the joints during the exercising, making it easier for anyone with painful joints to move. Anyone with painful issues with joints such as the hips, knees, or even the back can find that the buoyancy is far less stressful on their body and can often exercise longer than they can out of the water. And, this is true, no matter how much a person weighs.
  • Resistance – Water also automatically creates resistance when moving in it, and will aid in strengthening muscle, without the need for weights or resistance bands. Exercising with resistance outside of water can be quite painful for anyone suffering with joint inflammation. Water resistance combined with buoyancy often allows for more comfortable forms of exercise.
  • Hydrostatic Pressure – This is helpful in helping to reduce inflammation in the joints, which leads to proprioception enhancement (stability and coordination) and is likely to help patients with torn ligaments, sprains, and soft tissue inflammation caused by disease or injury.
  • Warmth and Relaxation – Aquatic exercise tends to generate warmth during the therapy sessions, as long as the water is an appropriate temperature. This helps to relax the muscles, as well as increase blood flow to areas that are injured and inflamed. Patients with fibromyalgia, back issues, and spasms often find water exercises to be less painful and helpful.

This doesn’t mean you won’t feel the effects of exercise afterward at all…because you probably will, if you are doing it right. However, it should allow you to be able to exercise, when it might be a lot more painful and difficult to do so in a more conventional manner.

The Disadvantages to Exercising in Water

As with anything, there are some disadvantages to consider when planning out your aquatic exercise routine. It will be up to you, to determine if they outweigh the advantages.

One of the disadvantages is that not all pool water is created equal, or a person’s tolerance to the chemicals. Some of the symptoms people with sensitivity to chemicals such as chlorine or bromine include itchy skin and eyes, or even some respiratory irritation in rare cases. However, showering immediately afterward can sometimes help to resolve it.

Another downside is that it doesn’t burn as many calories as an intense conventional workout will provide. However, if you are not able to exercise due to painful joints outside of the pool, then it’s far better than not exercising at all.

Of course, there is the possibility of drowning. Yes, this is a big one, when it comes to cons. So, to reduce that risk, make sure to exercise with someone else in the vicinity, or in the shallow end if you are alone.

But, perhaps the biggest disadvantage is physical therapy in a pool doesn’t carry well over to the land. When you are out of the pool, which is the majority of your life, you are experiencing full weight-bearing conditions…meaning, the buoyancy is gone. So, while it’s a good starting point, ultimately you will have to go through a transition in bearing full weight for full improvement in recovery. If not, it could severely impact your bone mineral density.

All things considered though, aquatic exercise is a great form of working out or physical therapy and is recommended by many professionals. Just make sure to combine it with activities on land, or weight-bearing forms of strength training and exercise.