If you have lower back pain from an injury or a genetic predisposition, or are interested in developing your core strength (your stabilizing muscles of the abdominals, back and hip abductors and adductors) to help prevent back pain, then water exercise or aquatic therapy may be just the thing for you.
About 80 percent of the population is affected by back ailments at some point. Aquatic exercise or therapy can serve as a solution to these ailments. When exercises are performed correctly, the participant can reap the benefits, including the decrease or elimination of pain and an increase in core strength. To increase core strength while protecting your back, one must maintain a neutral spine position throughout all the exercises.
Water’s special properties make exercising less painful and much more fun. For example, the hydrostatic pressure on your joints and muscles massages and comforts your body while you exercise. Buoyancy helps to decrease the stress on your joints and muscles which, in turn, reduces the pressure on your spine. While exercising in chest-deep water, 90 percent of your body weight is buoyant; therefore, you’re really bearing only 10 percent of your weight. The water’s temperature can also have a therapeutic effect. Temperatures between 84 and 92 degrees provide a thermo effect, which allows muscles to relax, decreasing pain and increasing both circulation and flexibility. Due to the property of viscosity, the amount of resistance from the water can range from 4 to 44 times that of air. Water’s resistance can be beneficial in that it is like exercising with weights or machines.
Although exercising on land, such as jogging, running, biking and even golfing, is beneficial, being in the water is also beneficial in increasing your overall fitness. Aquatic exercises have many of the benefits of land exercises without the impact to joints or overheating of the body. In fact, water exercise burns more calories than land exercises both during and after your workout. But keep in mind that, since you do not live your life in the water, a combination of land and water exercise is best to minimize impact but also prepare the body of activities of daily living.
Aquatic exercise offers many options and different forms of fitness. Examples are lap swimming, water walking or group exercise classes. Joining a water exercise class will help you meet other people and greatly increase your level of enjoyment. So, whether you’re looking to improve your cardiovascular endurance or strengthen or reduce your back pain, aquatic exercise or aquatic therapy is a great solution.
The Wellness and Physical Therapy Departments at Hayes Green Beach Memorial Hospital (HGB) offer aquatic aerobics classes and personalized one-on-one aquatic therapy in the warm water therapy pool of the Charlotte Aquatic Center. Like any exercise program, to able to obtain the most benefits you should exercise at least 3 to 5 times a week for an exercise duration of 20 to 60 minutes. Of course, always get your physician’s approval before participating or beginning any fitness
program or activity.
Finding a Neutral Spine Position
Stand with your knees slightly bent. Place your weight evenly on both legs, principally the balls of your feet. Practice pelvic tilts until a neutral balance is found, i.e., the position feels good. Feel the degree of curvature by placing one hand in front and one on your back. Draw in and contract your abdominal muscles (pull your navel toward the spine).
Core Strengthening Exercise
Stand with your knees slightly bent. Find your neutral spine position. Hold the noodle on the surface of the water. Draw in and contract your abdominal muscles. Push noodle under the water and hold 3-5 seconds. Release slowly to surface of water. Repeat 10 times.