Water Exercises for Rehabilitation

Peer Reviewed

Athletes who are recovering from an injury or surgery can stay fit by doing water-based strengthening, stretching, proprioceptive, and sport-specific exercises, say the authors of an article that reviews a variety of activities.

Cardiovascular training includes deep-water running, cross-country skiing, kicking with or without fins, and interval training. A symmetrical floatation device may help some patients. Resistive training for the upper extremities includes swimming and flexion, extension, abduction, adduction, and internal and external rotation exercises.Lower-extremity exercises include vertical kicking, squats while standing on a flotation board, and various jumping drills.

Many exercises already mentioned strengthen the core body; other exercises for this purpose include side-of-the-pool leg lifts and trunk rotations with arms extended.

Exercises for balance and proprioception include single-leg balancing on the injured leg while pushing and pulling on a kickboard or rotating the upper trunk.

Examples of sport-specific exercise are jumping drills for volleyball or basketball players and bat swinging for a baseball player. An athlete's heart rate should be 17 to 20 beats per minute lower when he or she trains in water than on land. For intense training, the recommended water temperature is 26° to 28° C, whereas stretching routines should be done in water that is 32° to 35° C.

Comment: This article is a comprehensive review of aquatic-based therapy. Familiarity with the variety of water exercises presented here can help the injured athlete in many ways during rehabilitation.

Haller MD, David L. "Water Exercises for Rehabilitation." The Physician and Sportsmedicine June. 1998: 29-30.

 Material © Institute for Physical & Sports Therapy
 Used by permission

Updated on: 11/10/15
Mary Rodts, DNP
While many patients may not want to become involved with hydrotherapy or aquatic therapy because of the hassle factor, this type of therapy can be a tremendous adjunct for patients that cannot tolerate land therapy.