In October, I had two major hip surgeries in twenty-five days. Now if you know me, you understand how important being active is to me – so let’s just say the last two months have been a bit rough. Recently, however, I had a follow up with my surgeon and finally got the go-ahead to work out in the pool.
Still, on crutches, I have very limited weight bearing on my left leg, this makes a pool the perfect place for me to start my rehab. The water, with at least eight major benefits, can help me or you improve the rehab of an injury, recover after surgery, or just add needed cross-training into a current workout program.
1. Buoyancy; the upward force of water on your body helps reduce the amount of weight on an injured extremity. Since buoyancy is even greater in a salt pool or the ocean than your standard pool or freshwater swimming hole, I can walk in a salt pool with no limp.
This allows my muscles to relearn a normal walking pattern sooner than if I waited to heal up on land. I can execute a variety of movements I otherwise would not be able to perform on land.
2. 784 times denser than air, water creates much more resistance. So while the water offers a great deal of assistance through buoyancy, it also helps strengthen our muscles through resistance. The faster the movement through the water, the greater the resistance.
The greater the surface area moving through the water, the greater the resistance.
3. While exercising in the water, our level of perceived exertion is less than our actual physical exertion. This is a double-edged sword.
While the cooler than body temperature water helps keep us cool (and not appear to sweat) and the increase of water pressure aids in venous return to heart (usually eliciting a lower heart rate/breathing rate), we need to be careful not to over exercise when first starting in the water.
You will feel great while in the water, but once you get out fatigue will set in quickly. Always start slow and increase your workload by no more than 10-20% per week.
4. Pain reduction – Through my own experience and through those I train in the water, pain levels decrease or completely go away while in the water. This is the only environment that offers me a pain-free half hour out of each day, improves my strength, and helps me heal so my pain on land is reduced over time.
5. Balance – At a depth of 3-4 feet, the water acts as a stabilizer but, it also requires us to balance and counteract its motion. This will help in strengthening not only the major mover but also the ancillary muscles utilized to create balance.
Plus, when we work out in water up to our chest, we minimize the chance of falling and the fall rate is slow.
6. The buoyancy also increases our mobility – the range of motion in injured joints. After all my shoulder surgeries, the water allowed me my first full range of motion. Over time, this increase in ‘range of motion’ will carry over to dry land.
7. The atmospheric pressure of the water at 4 feet is greater than standing in the air. This can help with fluid retention in the lower extremities.
This pressure can not only aid in the venous return of blood up to the heart but, also help fluid be compressed from the interstitial spaces and be returned upwards through the lymph system.
8. Finally, being in water just gives a level of relaxation not found anywhere else. The feeling of being weightless the coolness of the water just makes for a tranquil environment.
Wondering where to start your water workout? Here are some exercises to get you started:
Workout performed at a 4-foot depth:
• Walk forward
• Side steps
• High knee marching
• Walking front kicks
• Walk backward heel/toe raises
• Chest fly/reverse fly
• Front raises/pulldowns
This whole workout takes approximately 30 to 40 minutes. All exercises should be performed according to your current fitness level, injuries, medications, and contraindications.
For more information on Dedham Health, visit our website.
Guy C., – Fitness and Martial Arts Director at Dedham Health