Hydrotherapy: workout in water!

by (Physiotherapist)

HYDROTHERAPY: Water As A Workout!

And you don’t need to be able to swim!

Research is consistently showing hydrotherapy, or aquatic exercise, to be as effective as land-based exercise in reducing pain and improving function [3][7]. It’s no wonder that hydrotherapy has been used as a treatment modality for hundreds of years!

  • It’s low impact

Great for managing rheumatoid or osteoarthritis, those who have difficulties exercising on land due to impact or pain [4].

  •  Thermotherapy

Relaxes muscles and relives joint stiffness [6].

  • Assists with chronic conditions

Arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, fibromyalgia [6].

  • Preparation for or rehabilitation following joint replacement surgery
  • Facilitating recovery from certain strokes and brain injuries

But what really makes hydrotherapy so effective?


Buoyancy – The deeper you are submerged in water, the less you weigh. Exercising in water lessens the effects of impact exercise and relieves the joints of much of your bodyweight [1] [5]. Hence, one can tolerate a variety of exercise with better endurance, technique and reduced or no pain.

Heat – Hydrotherapy pools measure around 34°C in temperature, much warmer than your average lap pool! Heat increases circulation through the body, which can relieve muscle tightness and relieve stiffness in joints [1]. The heat can even reduce cortisol/stress levels in our body [6].

Density – Water has a higher density than air so gravity does not apply in the pool as on land. As a result the body must work harder to move [4]. Sometimes, this can mean you get more of a workout walking in water than on land!


  • Hypertension or hypotension (high or low blood pressure)
  • Open wounds or unhealed stitches
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Infectious conditions
  • Chlorine allergies
  • Specific medications
  • Fear of water

Hydrotherapy is a great workout for the whole body as well as a place for healing, movement and pain relief. To see if hydrotherapy might be for you, we recommend you consult your healthcare practitioner.


[1] Arthritis Australia (2017). Water Exercise. Retrieved from: https://arthritisaustralia.com.au/managing-arthritis/living-with-arthritis/physical-activity-and-exercise/water-exercise/

[2] Australian Physiotherapy Association. (2015). Australian guidelines for aquatic physiotherapists working in and/or managing hydrotherapy pools (2nd Ed). Retrieved from: https://australian.physio/sites/default/files/tools/Aquatic_Physiotherapy_Guidelines.pdf

[3] Barker, A., Talevski, J., Morello, R., Brand, C., Rahmann, A., & Urquhart, D. (2014). Effectiveness of Aquatic Exercise for Musculoskeletal Conditions: A Meta-Analysis. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 95(9), 1776-1786.

[4] Koury, J. M. (1996). Aquatic therapy programming: Guidelines for orthopedic rehabilitation. United stats of America: Human Kinetics.

[5] Michlovitz, S., Bellew, J. W. & Nolan, T. (2012). Modalities for therapeutic intervention (5th ed., Contemporary perspectives in rehabilitation (Series)). Philadelphia: F.A. Davis.

[6] Mooventhan, A. & Nivethitha, L. (2014). Scientific evidence-based effects of hydrotherapy on various systems of the body. 6(5). 199-209. doi: 10.4103/1947-2714.132935

[7] Waller, B., Ogonowska-Slodownik, A., Vitor, M., Lambeck, J., Daly, D., Kujala, U., & Heinonen, A. (2014). Effect of therapeutic aquatic exercise on symptoms and function associated with lower limb osteoarthritis: Systematic review with meta-analysis. Physical Therapy, 94(10), 1383-13895.

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