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Water Therapy Exercises

Pool (aquatic) exercise provides many benefits, including an ideal environment to exercise throughout the year. The buoyancy of the water supports a portion of your body weight making it easier to move in the water and improve your flexibility. The water also provides resistance to movements, which helps to strengthen muscles. Pool exercises can also improve agility, balance, and cardiovascular fitness. Many types of conditions greatly benefit from pool exercise, including arthritis, fibromyalgia, back pain, joint replacements, neurological, and balance conditions. The pool environment also reduces the risk of falls when compared to exercise on land.

1. Water walking or jogging.Start with forward and backward walking in chest or waist high water. Walk about 10-20 steps forward, and then walk backward. Increase speed to make it more difficult. Also, increase intensity by jogging gently in place.

2.Knee-to-chest exercise. This movement is performed while standing on one leg, which is slightly bent, and one leg outstretched in front while one hand holds onto the side of the pool. It strengthens and stretches the muscles in the leg, hip, and lower back.

3. Forward and side lunges: Standing near a pool wall for support, if necessary, take an oversized lunge step in a forward direction. Do not let the forward knee advance past the toes. Return to the starting position and repeat with the other leg. For a side lunge, face the pool wall and take an oversized step to the side. Keep toes facing forward. Repeat on the other side.

4.Leg raise exercise. This movement is performed with one leg outstretched and the supporting leg slightly bent while one hand holds onto the side of the pool. It strengthens and stretches the muscles in the leg, hip, and lower back.

5. One leg balance: Stand on 1 leg while raising the other knee to hip level. Place a pool noodle under the raised leg, so the noodle forms a “U” with your foot in the center of the U. Hold as long as you can up to 30 seconds and switch legs. Try 1-2 sets of 5 on each leg.

6. Wall-facing leg stretch exercise. In this stretching exercise individuals assume a “Superman” position with hands resting on side of pool and the body and legs outstretched into and supported by water. This extends all regions of the back and the joints in the back, as well as stretching shoulder muscles.

7. Pool walking exercise. Walking both forward and backward in chest-high water works the leg muscles while exerting no impact of the knees or hips, which is particularly important for people who have arthritis in those joints. The walking exercise can be made more demanding with the addition of hand floats or light weights, so a stroll in the pool becomes an aquatic version of power walking.

8. Pool planks: Hold the noodle in front of you. Lean forward into a plank position. The noodle will be submerged under the water, and your elbows should be straight downward toward the pool floor. Your feet should still be on the pool floor. Hold as long as comfortable, 15-60 seconds depending on your core strength. Repeat 3-5 times.

9. Deep water bicycle: In deeper water, loop 1-2 noodles around the back of your body and rest your arms on top of the noodle for support in the water. Move your legs as if you are riding a bicycle. Continue for 3-5 minutes.

10. Arm raises: Using arm paddles or webbed gloves for added resistance, hold arms at your sides. Bend your elbows to 90 degrees. Raise and lower elbows and arms toward the water surface, while the elbows remain bent to 90 degrees. Repeat for 3 sets of 10.

11. Push ups: While standing in the pool by the pool side, place arms shoulder width apart on pool edge. Press weight through your hands and raise your body up and half way out of the water, keeping elbows slightly bent. Hold 3 seconds and slowly lower back into pool. (Easier variation: Wall push up on side of pool: place hands on edge of pool shoulder width apart, bend elbows, and lean chest toward the pool wall.)

12. Standing knee lift: Stand against the pool wall with both feet on the floor. Lift 1 knee up like you are marching in place. While the knee is lifted even with your hip, straighten your knee. Continue to bend and straighten your knee 10 times, and then repeat on the other leg. Complete 3 sets of 10 on each leg. For more of a challenge, try this exercise without standing against the pool wall.

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