For athletes who need to stay in shape during an injury, or for patients trying to improve their strength, underwater treadmills give physical therapists and athletic trainers an effective tool for driving results. Here are some of the top underwater treadmill uses:
Staying in shape for a sport without full weight-bearing
In order for athletes to keep up their workout frequencies with reduced levels of stress, training facilities should consider installing underwater treadmills.
Improving gait after an injury
Anyone who has suffered a hip or leg injury is no doubt anxious to recover and resume with life as normal. However, rehabilitation and gait training can be lengthy and an often discouraging process. While recovery can take longer than expected, it’s a crucial river to cross. Patients working to regain their walking ability can get there with sessions of underwater treadmill therapy, which offer unique benefits for those who have undergone joint surgery. Oftentimes they can begin walking in the water sooner than on land thanks to the reduced weight-bearing water’s buoyancy offers.
With aquatics, the warm water decreases inflammation and alleviates four-fifths of a patient’s body weight. The side effects that often come with on-land rehabilitation are significantly reduced in underwater pools, thanks to increased balance, circulation, flexibility, and mobility.
Since the possibility of falling is drastically reduced, patients are also more likely to stay committed to their program and remain positive about their recovery.
Water also helps patients gain strength through resistance and correct faulty postures that may have developed post-injury through the overuse of working joints.
Increasing leg muscle strength
Underwater treadmill exercise is a proven method for leg-toning. When set against the pressure of water, the act of walking on the treadmill helps with strength-building along the lower extremities.
According to a recent TAMU study, athletes that alternate underwater treadmill workouts with on-land strength training see greater improvements in lean body mass compared to individuals who only do non-aquatics.
For older adults, leg exercises reduce the risk of falling. After a lower body surgery, a period will follow where the patient must refrain from weight-bearing activity. But oftentimes, thanks to the buoyant factors of water, a patient or athlete can use an aquatic treadmill as a recovery aid within days of a surgery.
Since all of the body’s leg movements are connected to the hips, an injury in that area can lead to further injuries around the body. Therefore, hip-strengthening programs are needed to combat the annual rate of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears.
Aquatics have been recognized as one of the most effective preventions of ACL injuries due to both the soothing factors to reduce swelling and the low-stress, strength-building benefits of exercise in an underwater environment. For people who have just suffered a tear, aquatics can be used to intervene against further injuries and side effects — such as the loss of balance, mobility, and muscle strength.
Using an underwater treadmill in combination with underwater cameras can be used to improve posture, gait and sports-specific movements to prevent injury with improved form.
TAMU research into ACL prevention and treatment has also found that patients not only enhance their strength and mobility with underwater treadmill exercise, but they also take a more positive approach to the exercises due to the comforts of water.
CROSS TRAINING AND UNDERWATER TREADMILLS
Professional athletes in the world of sports are gravitating towards treadmill pools for the purposes of cardiovascular and strength training. For runners, the underwater treadmill mimics the setting of a land-based environment, but reduces the stress of body weight on joints and provides resistance.
HOW CAN OLDER ADULTS BENEFIT
olderPoolFor older adults, the benefits of aquatics are innumerable. During a 12-week study of 38 OA patients in their mid-sixties, it was found that muscle strength and flexion improved by 18 percent in the knees and by 12 percent in the hips with underwater treadmill therapy. Abduction and adduction rose by 25 and 13 percent, respectively.
In another study comprised of 71 OA-afflicted sexagenarians over a six-week period, 72 percent experienced reduced pain and 75 percent enjoyed reduced joint stiffness due to aquatics. After these studies, the confidence gained from warm-water exercises led to improved on-land activity among the subjects.
TOP UNDERWATER TREADMILL EXERCISES
athletes2Underwater treadmill workouts can be used to target joints and muscles in the lower and upper extremities. Starting with the hips, a person can do reps underwater that build this crucial part of the body, which will make the legs tighter and more mobile.
From there, an athlete or patient can focus on the knee joints and calf muscles with various walking routines. With the upper half of the body, they can employ motions against the water’s pressure for the purpose of strength building and tightening of the arms.