Getting started in Hydrotherapy: 10 Easy Pool Exercises to take your Pain Away

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Pool based exercise also known as hydrotherapy provides many benefits. The weightless environment of water takes the load off your joints facilitating pain free movement giving you the chance to improve strength and flexibility.

The aquatic environment also provided resistance to movements, strengthening muscles, ligaments and bone. Pool based exercises can also be a great way to improve your balance and cardiovascular fitness in a safe environment without the risk of falls and injury. Many different conditions receive great benefit from hydrotherapy these include
* Arthritis
* Back Pain
* Joint Pain
* Poor balance and falls prevention
* Fibromyalgia
* Neurological conditions
* Joint replacements

Getting ready for the pool
Before starting a pool based exercise program, always check with your Exercise Physiologist GP or Physical Therapist to make sure aquatic exercise is safe for you. Here are a few pointers to get your started.

* Water shoes are useful to prevent slipping on the bottom of the pool
* Water level should be between waist and chest height
* Use a floatation belt or foam noodle to keep you afloat in deep water exercises
* Slow movements created less resistance than faster movements
* Never push your body through pain during any pool based exercise
* Even though you won’t feel sweaty, stay hydrated and drink plenty of fluids

Top 10 Pool based exercises
1. Water walking or jogging
Start with walking forward and backward along the bottom of the pool in chest deep water increasing the speed to make it more difficult. Ramping up the pace to jogging will increase the intensity. A nice workout involves jogging for 30 seconds followed by walking for 30 seconds. Continue this for 5 minutes.

2. Forward Lunges
Standing in waist deep water, take an extra-long step forward. Keeping your weight on your heel bend the front knee down paying close attention not to let the forward knee move past your toes. Now push back up come back to the starting position. Continue alternating legs. Try 3 sets of 10 on each leg. As this becomes easier we can progress to walking lunges down the pool.

3. Single Leg Balance
Standing on 1 leg lift your other knee up to hip height. Hold this as long as your can trying to reach 30 seconds before you switch legs. This is a great way of improving your balance in the safety of the water. Try for 5 sets of 30 seconds on each leg.

4. Sidestepping
Face the side of the pool. Now taking sideways steps with your body and toes facing the wall take 20 steps down the length of the pool facing the same way then return. To progress this increase the speed of movement and even try side skipping! Repeat 3 times in each direction

5. Deep Water bicycle
A great one for knee pain! In deep water, either attach a floatation belt or loop a foam noodle under each arm and around your body. Now move your legs as though you’re riding a bicycle. For either 5 continuous minutes or 30 fast on and 30 seconds easy. Exercising your legs without any compressive loading through your knee joint.

6. Push ups
Standing facing the side of the pool, place your hands shoulder width apart on the pool edge. Bending your elbows, bring your chest down until it almost touches the side of the pool, now hold for 3 seconds and then push up, straightening your elbows and coming back to the starting position.  Aim for 3 sets of 10 reps. To make this more difficult move down to the shallow end of the pool or alternatively to make this exercise easier move to the deeper end of the pool.

7. Arm raises
Standing in neck deep water, place your hands by your sides. Now bring your arms straight out to the side forming the letter “T” with your body, now push down and bring them back down to your sides. Repeat this for 3 sets of 10. These arm raises can also be performed raising your arms up in front of you.

8. Standing Donkey Kicks at pool wall

Stand looking down the pool with the pool wall on one side of your body for support. Swing 1 leg forward with your knee straight, like you are kicking, then swing back and return to the starting position. Repeat this on either leg for 3 sets of 10

9. Water Planks

Hold a foam noodle out in front of you. Leaning your elbows on to the noodle. Lean forward in a plank position with the noodle slightly submerged under water so that your elbows are perpendicular to the bottom of the pool. Your feet should still be on the pool floor. Hold this for as long as you are comfortable 15-60 seconds depending on your core strength. Continue this for 3 sets.

10. Standing knee lifts

Stand facing the pool wall with both feet on the bottom. Lift one knee up like you are marching in place. Whilst your knee is level with your other hip, straighten your knee. Continue to straighten and bend your knee 10 times then repeating this on your other leg. Complete 3 sets of 10 on each leg. To progress this exercise try doing the same movement without standing next to the pool wall.