Benefits of an Underwater Treadmill
Underwater treadmill offers many of the same advantages as running on land, but without the pounding impact. The resistance of water increases the more you walk or run, resulting in a full lower-body workout and core conditioning.
Some athletes use the underwater treadmill to continue their training during rehab. Budd Coates, a professional marathon coach and four-time Olympic Trials qualifier, uses the Hydro Track at his facility.
Reduced Stress on Joints
The water supports body weight and offers resistance, so it’s easier to exercise for longer periods of underwater treadmill time with less stress on joints. In addition, the warm water soothes muscles and reduces pain, which can allow more strenuous workouts to be completed without putting too much strain on the body.
Whether you’re an elite runner or just someone who loves to exercise, it can be frustrating to get injured and be forced to put your fitness routine on hold. But a little creativity can help you keep running while you heal—and even improve your speed and endurance. One option that can be a game-changer is an underwater treadmill, which mimics on-land running and allows you to maintain your cardiovascular fitness.
According to Runner’s World, “aquatic therapy is a great way to stay in shape while recovering from injuries and surgery.” That’s because it provides the same cardio benefits as on-land running but without the impact on your knees, ankles, hips, back and other joints.
Aside from some instabilities that should be corrected prior to initiating water exercises (like a spinal instability), most patients can safely use an underwater treadmill, provided they’re monitored and not exercised to the point of panting. Many facilities have treadmills in their pool rooms, so a patient can simply step onto the ramp or tread and get started with a quick run/walk interval.
Increased Muscle Strength
Many postsurgical or neurologic patients experience muscle atrophy. This condition, characterized by reduced strength and flexibility in a limb, can lead to pain and limited mobility. Walking on the underwater treadmill enables increased, or even restored, range of motion in joints while simultaneously strengthening muscles.
The turbulence generated by jets in some underwater treadmill equipment increases the level of resistance. This enables the therapist to increase or decrease the intensity of the workout. Jets can also be used to create a backwards walking gait pattern in patients with a reduced range of motion in the stifle and hock due to an anterior cruciate ligament injury.
This type of therapy can be beneficial to athletes in recovery from an injury, to help prevent injuries, and to enhance performance. Athletes that alternate hydrotherapy with on-land training sessions often experience faster and greater improvements in their on-land fitness levels than those who perform only on land.
Many dogs and cats are afraid of the moving belt on a treadmill, but with the guidance from our expert therapists they adjust to this environment quickly. In addition, the warm water provides a calming and soothing effect that helps to reduce stress. In fact, some pets enjoy using the underwater treadmill so much that they continue to visit our facility for these workouts after their recovery from orthopaedic surgery or a neurological injury.
The heightened resistance of water provides increased cardiovascular endurance, boosting the effectiveness of exercise and the number of repetitions a patient can perform. This increase in stamina allows patients to keep up with their workout routines, even as they heal from injuries or continue to work through nagging pains.
The buoyancy of the water reduces a runner’s body weight underwater treadmill by up to 90%, minimizing stress on joints and muscles. In a study, participants who used an underwater treadmill performed better in strength and muscle mass tests than those who walked or ran on a land treadmill.
Walking on an underwater treadmill also enables a proper but exaggerated gait pattern, which enhances joint flexion and to a lesser extent extension, which is helpful for patients with limited range of motion in their knees or hips. For example, athletes who have cruciate ligament injuries benefit from this type of exercise.
The directional water jets in HydroWorx pools offer additional resistance that engages the core and upper body and forces runners to focus on posture, which is important in preventing injury. If your facility has an underwater treadmill, be sure that a qualified physical therapist is trained in how to use it. This ensures that your clients get the most out of the therapy experience and prevents injury. Your therapist should teach your patients how to properly complete exercises on the underwater treadmill and how to best maintain form while exercising in the pool.
The natural buoyancy of water reduces physical force on joints and limbs. It also eases swollen joints and muscles, improving mobility and flexibility. Additionally, warm water increases circulation and boosts strength. A study by TAMU found that athletes who alternate underwater treadmill workouts with on-land strength training see greater improvements in lean body mass than those who do not do aquatics.
Even injured runners can reap the benefits of an underwater treadmill. Elite running coaches, including the acclaimed Budd Coates, use the Aqua Treadmill to help their athletes recover from injuries while maintaining fitness. This type of exercise is particularly helpful for those with leg and hip issues, as it allows a runner to maintain his or her cardiovascular fitness while resting those injured muscles.
With a HydroWorx 1200 Series pool, the treadmills at our hospital feature a conveyor belt submerged in a heated swimming pool. Patients walk or run on the treadmill at an initial speed of about 1.5 mph, similar to the pace of a comfortable, brisk walk. Depending on the dog’s injury or condition, our veterinary team may slowly increase this speed or adjust the amount of resistance.
For dogs recovering from an orthopedic or neurological condition, as well as those with arthritis and obesity, the aquatic treadmill is an essential tool for strengthening muscle tone and reducing joint pain. The calming effect of the water and the gentle resistance of the treadmill helps build confidence and endurance.