Hydrotherapy is a great form of exercise if you like the water, have an injury or want a routine that can ease you into working out. Hydrotherapy exercise is ideal for injured joints and muscles since it is a low-impact workout and gentler on the body than exercises such as running. There are several exercises you can do in the pool to rehabilitate injury that also work to increase flexibility, decrease swelling and strengthen weak muscles. Consult with a physiotherapist or health professional to be sure you are medically cleared to participate in hydro exercises.
Walking is a great exercise for the cardiovascular system that can be transferred to the hydro pool. Pool walking is easier on the joints thanks to the buoyancy of water, which makes it great if you have sensitive knees. Walk in a pool as a warm-up and cool-down exercise to get the blood flowing through your body. You can also walk while taking a rest between other hydro-strengthening exercises to keep your body moving and heart rate up. Try walking five to 10 lengths of the pool as a warm-up and cool down and one to two lengths between other exercise sets.
Strengthen the lower-body muscles with hydrotherapy exercises. Use the water as resistance for leg exercises that involve the hips, knees, thighs, hamstrings and calves. Try doing hip abduction exercises in the pool to strengthen the outer-hip muscles and develop balance. Do this exercise by standing near the wall of the pool in waist-deep water. Keep your abdominal muscles tight as you lift your left leg out to the side slowly. Stop lifting when you start to lose your upright posture. Push against the water to return your leg to standing position. Repeat 10 times before switching to your right leg. As you progressively get stronger and more coordinated, add resistance by wrapping a pool noodle around your ankle.
Train your upper body with hydrotherapy exercises. Upper-body hydrotherapy exercises use water resistance and some use equipment such as water weights made out of floats to provide added resistance. Increase shoulder strength and chest strength by standing in chest-deep water with your arms out to your sides at about shoulder height. Hold a water weight in each hand. This is your starting position. Push your hands and arms down against the water to bring them in towards your sides. Then, slowly push your arms back up to the starting position. Control the upward motion so that you don't let the water spring your arms back up. This will increase muscle strength and coordination.
Stretching in the pool is a good way to increase flexibility with less strain on your joints. The water provides a relaxing environment and relaxes tight muscles to allow an increased stretch. Stretch your lower-body muscles, such as your hamstrings, quads and calves in a similar manner as dry-land stretching. Stretch the calves by standing up against the wall of the pool. Step your left foot back behind your right foot with your right knee bent over your right ankle. Place your hands on the wall at shoulder-height for support. Lean on the wall slightly as you stretch the calf muscle of the back of your left leg. The heel of your left leg should remain on the ground for increased stretch. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat on the other side.
Jennifer Andrews specializes in writing about health, wellness and nutrition. Andrews has a Master of Science in physical therapy from the University of Alberta as well as a bachelor's degree in kinesiology. She teaches yoga and pilates and is a recent graduate of the Institute of Integrative Nutrition.