Benefits of an Underwater Treadmill

Underwater treadmill

Benefits of an Underwater Treadmill

Whether you are a marathoner looking to increase your mileage or someone recovering from injury, an underwater treadmill can help you achieve the results you want without the strain and pain of running on pavement.

Depending on the water level, an underwater treadmill reduces your body weight by up to 75 percent. This decrease in impact stress allows you to exercise sooner while maintaining muscle strength and conditioning.

Reduced Impact

The buoyancy of water offers reduced stress and strain on joints and muscles. In addition to providing support, it also creates an invigorating cardiovascular workout, burns more calories and increases flexibility.

A specialized underwater treadmill allows your dog to walk or run at the same pace as on dry land. The veterinary team will slowly increase the speed and length of your dog’s sessions, while keeping an eye on their health.

Many injured dogs that cannot run or jump on land use an underwater treadmill to maintain a regular fitness level. This helps ease the psychological distress associated with a serious injury and encourages them to continue to exercise, even though their injuries are slowing their recovery.

For older or arthritic pets that struggle to walk on a traditional treadmill, the water provides an extra layer of support that takes pressure off the joints and reduces discomfort. As a result, they can exercise longer and more frequently, without the pain that often accompanies land walking or running.

Adding jets to the water can create increased turbulence and resistance, which further intensifies your pet’s workout. At our practice, we recommend using jets with patients who have limited stifle and hock flexion after an injury, or geriatric patients who have lost their strength due to inactivity.

As the jets push against your pet’s legs, they also work to improve gait, by encouraging them to step up and down as they move. This retrains the muscles to work together, improving their movement and reducing pain and inflammation.

In addition to reducing the impact on your dog’s joints, running on an underwater treadmill has been shown to significantly reduce blood pressure. This is especially helpful for dogs with hypertension, as it can help them avoid the risk of further damage and improve their overall quality of life.

You don’t have to be injured to reap the benefits of an underwater treadmill, as it has also been used by elite runners and triathletes. They do so to increase their weekly mileage without putting too much strain on their legs and to allow them to recover more quickly from harder efforts on the road.

Increased Resistance

Many of the same physical benefits of running on a treadmill can be gained in water with the added benefit of increased resistance, which helps to increase muscle tone and decrease joint stress. This is especially beneficial for individuals with joint issues or those who have been unable to exercise because of discomfort.

In addition, water treadmills can be adjusted to provide different degrees of resistance. This allows for a more tailored workout for a specific individual or group. This type of equipment is used by athletes, including professional and college football players to enhance their training. Using this technology in conjunction with a regular gym workout offers a complete cardiovascular and weight loss solution that is easy on the joints.

The water’s buoyancy and the force of moving feet against the current create an increased level of resistance that increases with speed. This makes it a very effective tool to help improve gait and balance. Several studies have reported that walking or running on an underwater treadmill improves static and dynamic balance in patients with stroke (1-4). In addition, one study Underwater treadmill found that walking backward on the underwater treadmill against a variable-speed current improved support ratio and symmetry of the hemiparetic lower limb in individuals with chronic stroke.

Most dogs adjust to the underwater treadmill quickly and often enjoy their sessions. They may initially feel nervous or unsure, but our expert therapy handlers help them overcome these fears. Most pets who use the treadmill learn to associate it with positive experiences, such as a treat or playtime, and often begin to look forward to their water treadmill sessions.

If a pet has a fear of the water or acts unsure in the water, we may add a float to their body or encourage them to walk with their limbs held out. In addition, we may encourage the patient to place weight on their functional limbs or use balloons to increase stifle flexion and surface area to amplify resistance.

We have also seen amazing improvements in animals that have a fear of being on land or are at high risk for falls, such as those recovering from a fracture or amputation. Adding an underwater treadmill has dramatically improved their quality of life and is often the catalyst that gets them back to doing what they love.

Increased Flexibility

Using an underwater treadmill to walk or run allows you to exercise in the same way as on land but without the increased stress on your joints. This provides a great cardio workout with a significant fat burning benefit. The resistance of the water also increases with speed, allowing you to push yourself harder for an even more intense workout. This makes the underwater treadmill a good option for people who want to do high-intensity exercise like running, but would find that too much impact is hard on their joints and back.

Walking or running on the underwater treadmill is very effective in increasing hip, leg and foot strength, as well as core muscles. The viscosity of the water forces the body to make more physical effort, which results in stronger muscles and better range of motion. This is especially helpful for those with arthritis, who are unable to do traditional strength training or use heavy weights due to joint pain and discomfort.

Many patients enjoy the experience of exercising on an underwater treadmill, including those who typically are hesitant to walk or do other forms of exercise due to the pain or stiffness associated with their condition. Because of this, they often become more active in their daily life once they have started a hydrotherapy program and have made it part of their routine.

A skilled therapist has a variety of techniques and assistive devices that can be used to improve the experience for patients. For example, we frequently use jets to create turbulence on the underwater treadmill, which increases the exertion level and helps with muscle tone and cardiovascular endurance. The therapist will decide when the added turbulence is appropriate for each patient, depending on their ability to walk for 20 minutes or longer and the goal of the therapy session or program.

In a recent study, researchers found that eight weeks of underwater treadmill training (UTT) improved leg strength, balance and walking performance in adults with incomplete spinal cord injury (iSCI). While this is a very exciting study and could potentially be applied to patients who have other conditions, such as stroke or knee and hip surgery, the therapist will need to carefully consider each individual case and their fitness level before making a recommendation on when UTT may be beneficial for their particular patient.

Increased Endurance

Walking and running on an underwater treadmill replicates the benefits of on-land exercise without putting too much stress on the joints. In addition, water’s increased resistance makes you work harder than on land. Some units have jets that can increase the level of turbulence, increasing your cardiovascular workout even further. This is especially useful in geriatric patients, working dogs, and athletes to improve performance and stamina.

Walking on an underwater treadmill can also help you strengthen your muscles and build endurance. Studies have shown that gait training in waist-deep or chest-height water for twenty minutes, three times per week, for eight weeks results in significant increases in maximum oxygen consumption and walking speed, as well as improved balance and walking distance.8

Additionally, walking on an underwater treadmill allows for an exaggerated form of walking that can be helpful for patients with limited stifle and hock flexion after Underwater treadmill surgery or injury. This can help improve flexion and extension while reducing shear force on the tibia, which could further reduce inflammation and promote healing.

Patients that have undergone surgery or currently have open wounds should not use an underwater treadmill until the veterinarian clears them for it. This is because open wounds in the water are prone to infection, and casts can become damaged and leak moisture inside.

However, many injuries and conditions can benefit from this low-impact therapy. For example, people with arthritic knees and hips can often exercise in an underwater treadmill for longer periods of time than on land because the buoyancy of water reduces stress on the joints.

This form of exercise can be helpful for weight loss as well. A study showed that patients who were overweight and performed cardiovascular exercises in water lost more weight than those who did not participate in the aquatic program.9

Whether you’re a professional athlete trying to stay in shape or recovering from an injury, hydrotherapy can be beneficial for your body and mind. With the proper therapeutic handling from our experienced therapists, your pet can enjoy the benefits of the underwater treadmill, and return to regular activity sooner than expected.