Aquatic Therapy Aids in Weight Loss for Patients
Although obesity is becoming an epidemic in the United States, many people do not look to physical therapy as their first option for weight loss and getting healthy. Certainly lifestyle changes such as exercise and diet are typically the first ways to try and manage weight.
Many times, adults only attempt to manage their weight once other health issues arise such as hip, knee or back pain. Sometimes, it is when surgery is required and it is recommended they lose weight in order to prepare for the surgery and aid in recovery. That is often when physical therapy clinics see patients looking to lose weight.
When patients are at this point, where pain is causing them to need surgery and lose weight, they are usually not interested in doing exercises on land where their pain is exacerbated and they tire easily. This can lead to frustrated, unwilling patients and even cancellations.
Although pain and exhaustion are part of the process, that doesn’t mean you have to leave your patients with an experience they’ll forever want to forget. Giving these patients access to an aquatic therapy pool is ideal for weight loss. Here are a few reasons why:
- Their pain will be reduced. Most patients report a marked improvement in pain levels once they are in a warm water environment. Multiple factors are at work to aid in their reprieve; warm water relaxes sore muscles and increases flexibility while buoyancy eases pressure on aching joints and facilitates movement.
- They can do more than they can on land. Once pain has decreased and flexibility has increased, patients find they are able to move freely and accomplish more than they thought possible. Some will find they can walk longer than they have in a long time. Others will discover that even running is a possibility! This helps to increase confidence and mental outlook for patients who may be struggling to see results.
- They will gain muscle strength. Studies have shown that exercising underwater in combination with strength training can help to increase lean muscle mass more than land exercise alone. This means your patients are losing weight and gaining additional strength to increase their stamina and capabilities on land.
- They will burn more calories. Underwater running has been shown to burn more calories than land running. This way, your patients are getting a time-efficient workout with the same or better results.
- Their heart and lungs will benefit too. The hydrostatic pressure of water produces the equivalent of 17 elastic bandages wrapped around the body. This means that patients’ venous return is greater, so the heart begins working more efficiently which increases blood flow. With that same pressure, the lungs are getting a workout and cardiovascular endurance begins to improve.
The best part about all of this, is that weight loss combined with the other benefits of aquatic therapy make exercise and movement on land that much easier as well!
Here are a few videos of patients who have benefitted from aquatic therapy for weight loss, whether just to get healthy or to prepare for an upcoming procedure: