The weather is getting warmer and the sun is out for longer. People are putting on their swimsuits to sunbathe at the pool. If you are dealing with an injury, it’s a perfect time to change up your exercises a bit to do some rehab in that water.
Benefits of Aquatic Exercises
The buoyancy and density of water makes it possible for one to exercise with assistance or resistance. Being in a pool can help you bear weight more easily on a limb that is having trouble bearing the same weight on land. At the same time, being in a pool can give you some resistance as you push your limb against the water.
Basic Pool Exercises for Lower Body
Walk forwards, backwards, and sideways. This is great for working your leg muscles against the resistance of the water. This is also a good thing to do after a foot or leg injury to help normalize your gait. When we have difficulty bearing weight on a certain joint on land due to the pressure of gravity, taking off some of that pressure can help us work through all of our available range of motion, normalizing our gait. Basic walking in the water is ideal for regaining function from many different injuries from total hip replacements all the way down to turf toe.
This is an exercise that is very useful to people that have had surgery such as an ACL repair or total knee replacement. Sometimes regaining the ability to bend your knee fully is very difficult after these procedures. The buoyancy of the water helps to assist moving the leg. For this exercise you can stand and bend your knee so that your heel is going up towards your buttocks, and then see if you are able to grab your foot. Another way to do this is by trying to march your knee up towards your chest, and then gently put your hands on your shin bone, hugging your leg towards you.
This is as basic as it sounds. Stand in the water and lift one leg up while trying to balance on the other leg. The water will try to displace you all while keeping you steady at the same time, so there is no need to really worry about falling. The deeper you are in the water (chest high) the harder this exercise will be, yet the safer it is. If you are in shallower water (just below the waist), the exercise is still difficult to do but for different reasons. The more people that are in the pool moving the water around, the more difficult this exercise will be. Try doing a 30 second balance 4 times.
Basic Pool Exercises for Upper Body
Shoulder internal and external rotation
Stand in chest high water with your elbow in at your side; then rotate your arms in and out as if you are opening and closing a newspaper. This type of movement is wonderful for strengthening the rotator cuff, which is a stabilizing force couple of shoulder. The water in this exercise will give you a nice amount of resistance.
This exercise is nice if you are having trouble raising your arm due to stiffness or tendonitis causing pain. This can be done a few ways. One way to do this is by being about chest deep in the water, and then start with your elbow at your side and raise your arm forward in a slow punching motion; for a longer arc motion you can start with your hands at the side of your legs, and let the buoyancy of the water help you raise your arm in a forward motion.
Tricep press downs
This last example is very good for functional use of being able to push downward, like when you are using your arms to help you up from a chair or pushing yourself off of the ground. If you have water dumb bells you can use those or even just foam pool noodles. Hold the noodles in each hand with your elbows bent at your side and push down. The density of the water with the buoyancy of the noodle will add wonderful resistance for your triceps and latissimus dorsi muscles.
These are just a few examples of how you can use the pool to assist you in your rehab. Get creative. Most things that can be done on land can also be done in water with a little modification. Talk to your therapist about how you can incorporate some of your exercises into the water when you are enjoying the lovely weather this summer.
Image credits: Top photo © Francesco Ridolfi/Fotolia; 2nd © Galina Barskaya/Fotolia.