6 Reasons Water Outweighs Air
Through the years, exercise engineers have developed many methods for patients to unweight. These systems vary in their effectiveness and form—all of them aiding patients who are recovering from surgery, recovering from injury or confronting mobility issues due to obesity, neurological disorders or arthritis, to name a few.
Overhead track and harness systems were developed many years ago to give patients relief from full-body weight during land-based therapy. These systems attach to the ceiling and strap onto patients’ torsos to help them move on land and protect them from falling while engaging in physical therapy. Also, NASA developed technology to help astronauts exercise and maintain conditioning in space. This technology, called differential air pressure, made its way into the fitness and rehab world several years ago by way of anti-gravity treadmills.
Where does water stand in relation to these other modalities?
Water has been nature’s healer for thousands of years. Warm water offers a weightless environment like these other modalities, but it also soothes joints, relaxes tense muscles and reduces inflammation. Unlike the other modalities that just unweight, water provides many more benefits:
- Water’s buoyancy creates a natural unweighting, allowing for freedom of movement without pain.
- Hydrostatic pressure from water reduces swelling, improves blood circulation and enhances recovery due to the decreased lactic acid build-up.
- Concentric and eccentric resistance occurs for both upper and lower extremities. This natural, constant resistance that water provides can actually help to increase strength without any restrictions.
- Warm water creates a comfortable environment conducive to healing, muscle relaxation and increased range of motion.
- Sport-specific drills such as back pedal, side shuffle, power skips, single and double leg hops, ski jumps, turn and run and carioca can all be performed without restrictions in water. Athletes can begin multi-planar drills in the water before they are cleared for land-based activity.
- Plyometric exercises like squat jumps, countermovement jumps, and tuck jumps can all be performed in the water, a safe and non-restrictive environment.
Case Study in California
Terrapin Physical Therapy in Monterey, CA was the first HydroWorx customer to utilize the HydroWorx 300, a portable aquatic therapy option that makes water a more available option because of its small footprint and ease of installation.
Tony Pazzaglia, PT, DPT, OCS, ATC, and CEO of Terrapin, understands the benefits of aquatic therapy. Integrating advanced aquatic therapy into both of Terrapin’s clinics has set their clinic apart from others in the community. Tony says referral sources understand that their patients will safely and successfully rehab at Terrapin PT and continually hear positive feedback from their patients during follow-up visits.
Tony stated, “We are called Terrapin, which is a species of turtle that lives in land and water. We’re called this for a reason. “
Aquatics Offers Benefits for Customers
Jason Yoder from Children’s Mercy in Kansas City, whose clinic invested in both anti-gravity and aquatic therapy modalities, explains the difference this way:
“With the antigravity, we’re restricted to a tiny space, whereas with the pool we have a huge space. When we put people in the antigravity treadmill, I can’t see what their hips and their trunks are doing, but with the water, you’re just free and not constricted.”
Understanding the benefits of each modality will be a key to finding the right unweighting modalities for any physical therapy clinic, rehabilitation center, gym or senior living center. For more information on the subject, please visit