Has a doctor or health professional ever told you to hang up the running shoes?
Have you found that going for long walks with your friends is no longer comfortable due to sore knees and feet afterwards?
Or have the gym classes you once loved attending now leave you feeling a little worse for wear?
If so, then you might have been encouraged or considered starting hydrotherapy (hydro for short).
Hydrotherapy is a term used to describe basically any movements and/or exercise performed in a pool. Many aquatic centres offer regular hydro group sessions, and trust me they can be harder than they look!
So how do you know if hydro might be helpful for you? Let's first take a look at some of the pro's and con's and I'll then share my approach to using hydro based exercise programs.
- Hydro is non-weight bearing! So it can be a great option for those who are wanting to reduce the impact through their weight bearing joints (think hips, knees and ankles)
- The water can facilitate movements and stretches that aren't always possible (or safe) on land
- Movement can be assisted with kick-boards, pool buoys and other cool toys
- The intensity of the session (how hard it is) can be easily varied. Hydro sessions can be very gentle, right through to quite challenging.
- If in a group, we know the social aspect can add to a great experience that can help not just fitness but wellbeing too.
- Warm water has been shown to help relieve tension and joint pain in some individuals.
- Can be a great option to keep moving if you are experiencing a flare in your symptoms, or feel unable to give your land based walk/run/gym session a good go.
- Can be a great way to help muscles recover after a golf game, long walk, run ect.
There aren't really many at all! But here are some that clients have shared with me over the years.
- Because you need a pool, it can be a bit difficult to get to.
- The logistics of getting changed, showering, goggles, swim cap ect can be a bit much for some who are tight on time!
- The low-moderate intensity of hydro might not be suited to your physical goals and aspirations.
- Can be difficult to progress hydro exercises beyond a certain point.
So when it comes to answering the question, "So will Hydro help me?" I often discuss some of the points above. But like all good clinical questions, the answer is often
It depends on the individual in front of me, their medical history and needs, how they move (established through a thorough assessment) and what they are aiming to acheive. Let me work through a few examples.
If someone is wanting to run a half marathon and achieve a faster time then last years result, then hydro might not be my first choice of exercise. (This individual should have a structured running program as well as strengthening exercises focused on building speed)
If someone is wanting to build muscles in their legs to help them complete an upcoming trek, then hydro again might not be my first choice (I'd be thinking lots of walking and strengthening work instead!)
Alternatively, for someone with Rheumatoid Arthritis who is experiencing a flare and is struggling with lifting weights at the gym, then a hydro session could be a great alternative if the person was still keen to exercise.
In a similar sense, a person with Fibromyalgia who has not performed any structured exercise in a few years and who currently flares after 10min walking would likely benefit from starting their exercise regime in the water.
So hope that helps! Hydrotherapy has many positives, however I'd recommend having a good chat to your GP or exercise professional before commencing to see how it might fit into your weekly/monthly exercise routine.
For more information, check out this Arthritis Australia info sheet. A great resource that helps explain things a little further.
Alternatively, click below if you wanted to speak to one of our EP's about building you a great hydrotherapy program!