The first principle of water is buoyancy. The definition is the amount of upward force equal to the amount of water displaced. It's the same reason boats float. Because of buoyancy we feel unweighted in the water. The deeper you are in the water, the more water is displaced, and the more lift you feel in the water. Frequently, clients tell me, my legs (or my body) just FEEL SO HEAVY. That's where water becomes a solution. Those heavy legs are unweighted, allowing for free movement. We have people who can run in our pool who wouldn't be able to jog 10 ft without the assist of buoyancy. Not only does it feel the unweighting relieve a lot of pain, but the movement builds confidence and feelings of achievement that are sometimes hard to get in the gym.
The next principle of water is viscosity, which is technically "a measure of its resistance to deformation at a given rate". Basically, how thick is the fluid. It would be a lot harder to move through syrup than water because it's so thick. But the cool thing about about water viscosity is that it allows you to control the amount of resistance in each movement. The faster you move in the water, the more resistance you will feel. Each person can easily control the amount of resistance in each movement by controlling their speed. Liftng weights or using a machine can seem intimidating, plus, lifting weights only works your muscles in one direction. In the water, you get resistance in every diagonal or circular move you make. The water allows you to strengthen you bodies in movement patterns that you use everyday such as lifting, carrying, steeping, or climbing. One client practices the movement pulling up her pants while in the water. The movements don't matter how big or small.
My favorite reason for water exercise or therapy is the positive emotional and relaxation state that being in and around water provides. In his book, A Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do, Wallace J Nichols talks about research shows the brain's reaction around water. The research proves that water can put us in a mildly meditative state, decreases our stress hormones, and increases our ability to focus. That state of mind is very difficult for those dealing with chronic pain, which makes getting in the pool, the perfect place to start a journey to recovery.
We help active adults get back to exercising, feeling fit, and participating in the activities they love without medications, injections, or surgery.
Catherine Courtney, PT
Specialist Physical Therapist