Working with Aquatic Fitness Equipment in Aquatic Therapy

Mobility related disorders affect people of all ages. Debilitating diseases such as Polio causes severe muscular impairment or paralysis in children, inhibiting movement. Fit, young athletes or sportspersons may sustain injuries during training or competition, putting their sports future in question. Senior citizens may suffer from various age-related conditions such as arthritis, affecting their joints and muscles.

In all these conditions, aquatic therapy, aided by aquatic fitness equipment, can help in regaining muscle strength and easing movement of affected limbs. Aquatic fitness equipment works for rehabilitation and physiotherapy by giving a minimal impact exercise regime, with less strain on joints and muscles as compared to land exercises.

Aquatic fitness equipment harnesses factors such as buoyancy and resistance provided by water, which makes it an ideal environment for rehabilitation exercises.

Aquatic therapy can be beneficial in the following ways:

  • Enables people facing challenges with limb mobility to pursue exercises.
  • Improves strength and endurance of muscles and joints.
  • Makes body limbs more flexible.
  • Helps in reducing weight.
  • Enables faster healing from orthopedic problems.
  • Makes cardiovascular system stronger and improves circulation.
  • Provides an environment where there is less pressure on muscles and joints.
  • Decreases swelling or edema in hands and feet.

Buoyancy and Resistance – Principle behind Aquatic Fitness Equipment and Exercise

Buoyancy is the most important property of water, which is used, in aquatic therapy.

Any object, which is partly or fully immersed in water, faces two main forces. First is the downward gravitational force determined by the weight of the object and the second is an opposing upward force called buoyancy. The famed Archimedes Principle says that buoyant force acting on an object in water would be equal to the weight of the water displaced by the object. If both gravitational force and buoyancy are equal, the object floats.

On land, the body is drawn down by gravitational force. In water, the property of buoyancy helps to reduce the gravitational force on a body or limb. So, hand and leg movement in water is easier, less strenuous and less painful. This is why various aquatic exercise regimes benefit patients.

When an object moves in water, there is resistance in the water to this movement. Water resistance can be helpful in building stronger muscles as well as in balance exercises.

Both the principles of buoyancy and resistance are put to good use by aquatic fitness equipment aiding in the muscular recovery of patients undergoing aquatic therapy.

Aquatic Exercises aided by Aquatic Fitness Equipment

Various exercises are used in aquatic therapy, according to the needs and capabilities of an individual. Aquatic exercises range from preliminary warm-up workouts with stretching and balancing exercises to harder, resistance training. Exercises will depend on which areas are to be focussed on. If patients undergoing physiotherapy have difficulty walking on land, their prescribed aquatic exercise regimen may include gait or walking pattern exercises. Patients who undergo movement exercises underwater would be able to make the same movements on land, with less effort.

An aquatic equipment fitness machine can help in carrying out aquatic exercises by providing more support or resistance. Some people undergoing the exercises may not know swimming or may be too weak to do fitness activities in the water without help from a fitness device. Aquatic aerobics fitness equipment can help senior citizens to work out more easily underwater with less strain.

Some ways in which aquatic fitness equipment can help with aquatic exercises include:

  • Increasing buoyancy with flotation devices- Flotation devices are some of the most basic of aquatic exercise equipment. As the name implies this equipment help in increasing the buoyancy in the water and thus enable staying afloat horizontally or vertically. Flotation devices can be worn on the ankles or feet, as a flotation belt, and as a collar. They can be used for aquatic running or underwater jogging. It helps to balance the body position underwater.
  • Increasing resistance with aquatic dumbbells – For those in need of a more strenuous workout, resistance devices can be used. The advantage of aquatic therapy lays in the fact that resistance exercises can be done with minimal impact on the joints or muscles. Aquatic dumbbells are often used as aquatic fitness equipment for resistance exercises. These can be lifted or pushed under water. It has been advised however that resistance equipment should be carefully used to avoid strains. Some other devices that are used for resistance aquatic exercises are aquatic boots for feet exercise and webbed gloves for hand movements.
  • Maintaining water position and balance using tethers – Tethers are cord-like equipment, which can help in keeping patients in a single location and posture. Tethers can be attached to the side of the pool and enable people to maintain their balance while doing exercises.

Comprehensive Aquatic equipment fitness Machine

There are more elaborate aquatic equipment systems, which provide a more compact underwater exercise environment. Some may also mimic some of the land fitness machines found in a normal gym.

One such aquatic equipment fitness machine is the hydrotherapy tank that is a full body tank. The hydrotherapy tank has features such as tethers, water temperature control, massage water jets, and body stretchers. Physiotherapists can use this device to monitor the underwater exercises of their patients.

There is fitness equipment such as an underwater stepper and underwater twisters, which can be used as aquatic aerobics fitness equipment and for underwater gait training. Aquatic aerobics fitness equipment helps in building cardiorespiratory fitness.

Beginners to aquatic fitness equipment should start easy, in a shallow part of the water. This is because water pressure increases with depth. There have been cautionary advisories given when using aquatic equipment such aquatic dumbbells, which may cause shoulder strain or injury with strenuous use. It is important for both physiotherapists and people undergoing underwater regimens to look out for signs of stress or strain.