Hydrotherapy exercises are a form of physical therapy performed in water. This type of exercise is typically used to alleviate the stress that regular exercise imposes on the body. While anyone can benefit from hydrotherapy, also known as aquatic therapy, older and heavier people typically engage in these types of exercises. They are beneficial especially to those living with pain, injury, or other health problems.
Usually performed in a warm water pool, hydrotherapy is used to help relieve joint pain and muscle tension. The water works to ease mobility and provide safe cushioning for stressed or fragile bones and muscles. There are a number of types of exercises that can be performed; which ones are employed generally depends on the instructor or therapist and the nature of the patients’ illness.
Hydrotherapy is an effective component to weight loss and is often recommended to patients who are overweight and suffering from the symptoms of obesity. Exercises performed in water alleviate the pressure that land exercises cause on the joints of overweight patients. An instructor will usually begin by having patients walk the pool floor and perform vigorous leg kicks while holding on to the pool's wall or a kick board to maintain balance. As weight loss occurs and body strength increases, patients are usually able to increase endurance and perform a wider range of hydrotherapy exercises.
Arthritis and osteoarthritis sufferers often benefit from aquatic exercises as well. Hydrotherapy exercises work to increase the production and distribution of synovial fluids which aid joint mobility — a key problem imposed by arthritis. Performing hydrotherapy in heated water, as opposed to tepid water, also helps loosen the ligaments and joints by relaxing tensed muscles.
Those suffering from osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis generally perform hydrotherapy in specially-designed pools with metal bars lining the sides. Patients usually exercise by holding the side rails and performing a variety of arm and leg lifts. Knee squats may also be performed to loosen the knee joints while enjoying the support of water. Exercises are generally taught on a condition-specific basis and may be modified to decrease or increase intensity.
While hydrotherapy is usually thought of as a type of exercise for older or heavier people, it's also available to those who are simply looking for an alternative form of exercise. Some gyms or fitness centers offer aquatic exercise classes to their general membership. Most classes include exercises to improve cardiovascular strength, flexibility and muscle tone. Anyone may benefit from hydrotherapy exercises, especially those with past sports injuries or weakening joints.