senior woman swimming

Aquatic Therapy for Seniors

May 8, 2018 Dr. Dan Murphy PT, DPT

Many seniors have good intentions with regards to exercise and an active lifestyle. Some have maintained an active lifestyle and have avoided the joint wear and tear – among other setbacks – afflicting a large portion of the senior population. However, the majority experience the aches and pains inherent to the aging process when attempting to be active. Whether pain, an operation, or another obstacle has led to a period of decreased activity, it can be a daunting task returning to prior activity levels and exercise. 

Aquatic therapy, defined as a low-impact exercise regimen performed in the water, can serve as a gateway for a safe, healthy return to an active lifestyle. 

Oftentimes attempts to return to a regular exercise regimen are accompanied with widespread pain – especially in the muscles and joints. Aquatic therapy mitigates this obstacle as up to 90 percent of the body’s weight is unweighted. This allows for joints to move through ranges of motion that would be too painful or too restricted outside of the water. Normal range of motion, then, is restored, which improves joint health and flexibility of the surrounding muscles. Furthermore, because of the built-in resistance of the water – the body’s musculature is strengthened as it works through newly-acquired range of motion. 

Aquatic therapy offers cardiovascular benefits, too. The water pressure increases the demands on the lungs which leads to cardiorespiratory benefits during aquatic therapy. Because the water is typically kept at a warm temperature (around 90°), the body perspires at an advanced rate which can boost metabolism and aid in weight loss. Very clearly, the enhancing effects of aquatic therapy are wide-ranging and applicable to seniors.

Overall, aquatic therapy enhances multiple body systems and the ultimate result is improved function. The fatigue that occurred just 10 minutes into a walk? Now a 30-minute walk is doable. The discomfort getting up from a chair? You’re now able to get into standing without cringing in pain. These are just two possible examples of the ways in which the benefits of aquatic therapy carry over into daily function for seniors.

Few fitness regimens can provide the encompassing benefits of a regular aquatic exercise routine, while at the same time minimizing pain and discomfort. Give aquatic therapy a try and enjoy enhanced mobility, stability (balance), endurance, and an overall improved life experience.

Dr. Dan Murphy PT, DPT is a physical therapist at Total Performance Physical Therapy and is a graduate of the University of Saint Augustine for Health Sciences, a Doctor of Physical Therapy program highly-regarded for its manual therapy-based curriculum.

aquatic therapy for seniors