Sometimes you just can’t do exercises on land because they are either too painful, or you just might not be strong enough to do them on land. Aquatic therapy with water exercise helps you get the exercise you need in a low impact environment. You can really concentrate on your technique because you don’t have to worry about falling. After you do a warm-up in the pool of gait exercises, then you can work on some standing exercises.
It is really important to make sure you have good posture when you are in the pool. It is really easy to move your upper body a lot, but you want to try to keep your upper body straight and upright. Squeeze in your abdominals to help keep that upright position. Using ankle weights can be very beneficial. Not only do they give you some extra resistance, but they also keep your feet on the ground while doing the exercises.
Hold onto the side or a bar to help keep your upright posture. Start off with a hip flexion/extension (front to back) exercise. Lock out your knee and try to keep it straight the whole time. Pulling your toes up or into dorsiflexion will help keep your knee straight. Bring your foot up as high as you can without leaning back, and then bring it back as far as you can without leaning forward. Then still keeping the knee locked out, perform hip abduction/adduction (side to side). Try not to turn your foot out when kicking out to the side. This will change the muscle you are trying to work. Start off with 10 on each side, and then work your way up.
Next is a hamstring curl. You are only bending your knee here. Try to keep your hip in a neutral position. If you bend your hip up, you are working different muscles. If you have to hold your hip down, that is fine, but it should stay in alignment with the other hip. Then you are going to do a Rockette kick. Bend your knee up into a march position, then kick your leg straight out. If that is too much of a stretch, don’t bring your knee quite as high. Make sure to do all these exercises on both sides. When you are standing on the leg, and moving the other, you are using your muscles as stabilizers so they are being worked in different ways.
The final two will be done with your feet about shoulder width apart, and again, make sure your feet are pointed forward. For the heel/toe raises, make sure to go as high up on your toes as you can to work the calf muscles. Then roll back onto the heels and pull your toes up to work the anterior tibialis muscle. Try not to stick your bottom back, just pull your toes up. Lastly, is a squat. Keep your feet flat on the ground the whole time. Stick your bottom back like you are going to sit in a chair to make sure your knees do not go in front of your toes. Bring your chest slightly forward, and keep your back straight.
If these become easy and you can do 20-25 without difficulty, try doing them without holding on to the side. If that is still easy, try holding on, but increase your speed. Make smaller, but quicker movements, and this will add resistance in the water. If you can’t hold your posture while doing these, then you are not quite ready yet!
Always use CAUTION with Exercising in a Pool: If you can’t swim, don’t do these exercises unless there is a certified lifeguard on duty. Working out in a pool can be very deceiving. Many times you will feel great while in the pool because gravity is taken away. It feels easy and you want to do a lot, but always start at a baseline. If you have not performed aquatic exercises before, you have to let your body adapt to it no matter what your fitness level. Pool workouts should only start at about 40 minutes, and you shouldn’t be in the pool longer than an hour especially if it is a heated pool. Don’t let the water fool you!