Underwater Treadmill Walking vs. Shallow Water Walking: Benefits for Rehabilitation
Drs. Dennis Dolny and Eadric Bressel from Utah State University, teamed up to evaluate the effects of underwater treadmill walking in a HydroWorx pool versus shallow water walking in a static pool. Their findings, backed by both raw data as well as underwater camera videos, support clinicians’ anecdotal reports that their patients and athletes who walk in a HydroWorx pool are better equipped to transfer what they learn to land than their counterparts who engage in self-directed shallow water walking.
A Pace That Reflects Real Life
In the study, Dolny and Bressel asked participants who walked in a shallow water pool, as well as those who walked on the HydroWorx, to freely choose a comfortable walking pace. The pace chosen by subjects in shallow water equated to about 1.3 miles per hour, while subjects on HydroWorx treadmills averaged a little more than 3 miles per hour. Not only was the walking velocity about 50% faster in the HydroWorx, but the 3 miles per hour stride better mimicked a typical land speed.
The Right Stride for Land Walking
In addition to pace, the researchers studied stride characteristics of all participants. The stride rates differed noticeably between the shallow water walkers and HydroWorx pool treadmill walkers. The latter group again had a stride that approximated what could be expected during land walking for their age group. Finally, the range of motion at subjects’ hips and knees were measured, and the same conclusion was apparent: the HydroWorx encouraged participants to select angles that were consistent with those found during land-based walking.
Support for HydroWorx and the Principle of Specificity
This information is especially important to any clinicians that are considering how aquatic therapy in a HydroWorx pool will help their patients or athletes adapt better to land-based occupational and physical therapy exercises.
As the Principle of Specificity notes, a person can only get good at what he or she repeatedly does. Though shallow water walking may have the word “walking” in its description, the type of walking done in this type of environment does not appear to produce the correct posture, gait and range of motion to carry over into a land-based environment; the type of walking in the HydroWorx does.
Drs. Dolny and Bressel have complied videos from this research study that clearly demonstrates the differences between underwater treadmill walking and shallow water walking. Throughout the video Drs. Dolny and Bressel describe their research as well as the noteable differences in the gait patterns and reasons that are contributing to it.