Our Bowie physical therapists encourage you to get active in the water this summer to improve fitness and alleviate pain

Bowie physical therapists aquatic exercise

June 12, 2018

Summer is practically here, and that means most outdoor pools are opening up soon if they haven’t already done so. For many of us, time spent in a pool may be seen as a chance to relax and unwind with your friends and family, especially if you have a pool of your own at home. While this usage of a pool is by no means wrong and absolutely encouraged by our Bowie physical therapists, we only suggest the following: consider taking advantage of pools for exercise purposes, too! It can be one of the safest and most effective ways to improve your physical fitness while also relieving your pain.

Any form of physical activity performed in water is classified as a low-impact exercise.  This means that compared to many land-based exercises like running, far less pressure is being placed on your joints. In fact, due to its buoyancy, you only weigh 10% of your actual body weight when suspended in water. This allows you to move freely with less stress on your joints and a lower risk of injuring yourself or making an injury worse. This is why water-based, or aquatic exercise is strongly recommended for individuals with painful conditions that affect joints like osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis is a condition that develops when protective cartilage in a joint gradually wears away, which causes the bones in that joint to rub against one another and results in pain and loss of function. Osteoarthritis can occur in any joint in the body, but it’s most common in the knees and hips, and it becomes more likely in older age and in people that are overweight. Up to 6% of people over the age of 30 suffer from the condition.

Since there is no cure for osteoarthritis, the only way to treat it is by reducing its symptoms of pain, stiffness and tenderness. The best way to do this is with exercises that stretch and strengthening the area around the joint with osteoarthritis. While land-based exercises are very effective towards reaching this goal, aquatic exercise can be even more beneficial for patients with osteoarthritis. The added bonus of exercising in water is that it can be soothing to joints and it also provides natural resistance. This means that every movement you perform will help strengthen your muscles even more than the same exercises done on land, and doing this regularly over time will improve agility, balance and heart and lung health.

Specific aquatic exercises from our Bowie physical therapists

If you’re dealing with symptoms that suggest osteoarthritis, our Bowie physical therapists recommend giving aquatic exercise a try. While swimming is the most popular pursuit, it’s certainly not the only way to work out in a pool. Here are some other aquatic exercises you can perform to boost your fitness and alleviate any pain from osteoarthritis:

  • Water walking or jogging: walk about 10-20 steps forward and then backward in chest- or waist-high water; increase your speed or try jogging in place to make it more difficult; also try alternating this with water weights for 5 minutes
  • Deep-water bicycle: in deeper water, loop one or two noodles around your back and rest your arms on top for support; then move your legs as if you are riding a bicycle; continue for 3-5 minutes
  • Sidestepping: face the wall and take 10-20 sideways steps in one direction and then return; repeat twice in each direction
  • Pool planks: hold a noodle in front of you, then lean forward into a plank position; hold for about 15-60 seconds depending on your core strength; repeat 3-5 times

These exercises can help bring you noticeable improvements, but if you’re dealing with severe pain and disability from osteoarthritis, they should only be seen as a starting point. The most effective way to address osteoarthritis is through a guided aquatic exercise treatment program created by one of our Bowie physical therapists. With this type of program, the therapist can factor in all of your symptoms, abilities and goals and determine the most appropriate exercises for your condition. So if you’re dealing with osteoarthritis to any degree, contact CAM Physical Therapy at 301-464-7390 today to schedule an appointment at any of our three locations in Glenn Dale/Bowie, Laurel or Hyattsville, or click here for more information on aquatic exercise.