Research Shows That High Intensity Training Provides Relief for Arthritic Patients
Did you ever think you would see the words, “osteoarthritis” and “high-intensity training” in the same sentence? Osteoarthritis, according to the Mayo Clinic, is the most common form of arthritis that occurs when the protective cartilage on the ends of your bones wears down over time, creating “wear-and-tear.” Therefore, words that come to mind when you hear osteoarthritis are, pain, discomfort and fatigue.
A recent groundbreaking research study out of Utah State University demonstrates the benefits that individuals with osteoarthritis can experience as a result of performing high-intensity training (HIIT) on an underwater treadmill. “The study- funded by the National Swimming Pool Foundation and published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research— found that its participants experienced significantly less joint pain, improved balance and better mobility after participating in a six-week exercise regimen. After the completion of the six weeks, participants’ walking speed was nearly identical to that of people without arthritis.”
Eadric Bressel, the research study’s lead author and a professor in the Department of Health, Physical Education and Recreation explains that “land-based exercises only load the joints with the person’s body weight.” By performing these exercises underwater, an individual is able to unload their body weight up to 80%, depending on the depth of the water. Therefore, as Bressel states in the article, this study was pioneering the way for a new type of exercise that these individuals could not achieve on land. He continued to say that typically you would think that if someone with arthritis were to do something at a high intensity level that it would exacerbate the pain, but they observed otherwise.
This recent study, “High-Intensity Interval Training on an Aquatic Treadmill in Adults With Osteoarthritis: Effect on Pain, Balance, Function and Mobility,” was inspired by a ‘landmark study’ on osteoarthritis in 2011 that found a “very strong relationship between reduction in body weight and improvement in arthritis pain.” However, for years there have been studies that say “if you go in the water it will improve symptoms of arthritis,” but the results have never been significantly better than land. Utah State University wanted to take this type of study to the next level by being the first to integrate high-intensity interval training on an underwater treadmill into the study.
One patient with osteoarthritis comments on her use of the underwater treadmill:
“It helps relieve a certain amount of pain because you’re not out on that pressure like you would be out on a hard floor. The treadmill moves for you and helps keep those muscles working. It moves at a pace you can handle and as you proceed with treatment after treatment, they turn it on faster. It helps develop your muscles and give strength gradually, and that’s what I like about this.”
Learn more about the HIIT work at Utah State by watching Eadric Bressel and Dr. Dennis Dolny describe their research:
Download our full research studies book, which includes summaries of each of the research studies that have been done on a HydroWorx underwater treadmill!