In this article, I talk about aqua therapy to improve balance with three exercises you can do right away. First, I outline a few concepts and then I provide three exercises you can start with the next time you’re in the pool (exercises are at the bottom of this article).

Key Points:

  • Water therapy challenges your core stabilizer muscles & strengthens them.
  • The water’s resistance provides an excellent environment for strengthening muscles. 
  • Water therapy is low impact on your joints because of buoyancy & liquid viscosity.
  • Travel exercises & single-legged exercises are especially important in aqua therapy for balance.

Core Stabilizer Muscles in Aqua Therapy for Balance

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Have you ever noticed how moving through water is more difficult & requires a more conscious effort to keep your balance as you move around?

Well, this is good news when it comes to balance training. The water’s environment is perfect for engaging and strengthening your muscles used for stability as you stand and as you move around. You core muscles (think trunk muscles including abdominals) are especially important when it comes to good posture and stable and effective locomotion (i.e. walking upright with good balance).

Pro Tip: Perform exercise movements with conscious effort to stand tall, keeping shoulders back, and engaging your abdominal muscles.

Water Resistance for Muscle Strengthening

Three women in water and their trainer in front exercising with barbells during Aqua Therapy for Balance.

Resistance training grows muscle fibers and makes them stronger. The water’s resistance is no different and exercises in water challenges your muscles to adapt.

As you move around, the water’s resistance makes it more challenging. You can use this to your advantage with targeted & focused exercises to strengthen muscle groups, including those important in maintaining good balance for standing and locomotion.

For example, your gluteal muscles are important for balanced and stable walking. Exercises that target this group are key to improving balance for standing and locomotion. Use aqua therapy to improve balance. 

Aqua Therapy for Balance is Low Impact on Joints 

Senior woman at the gym suffering from pain in knee

Exercising in the water is easier on your joints. Whether you suffer from arthritis, have reduced range of motion, have an artificial knee, osteoporosis or simply sore joints during regular land exercises, the water’s buoyancy and cushioning properties will keep your joints happy. 

This is great news when your goal is to strengthen muscles and joints without causing further wear and tear. You can work on improving balance with aqua therapy exercises in a low impact environment. 

Travel & Single-Legged Exercises Key in Aqua Therapy for Balance

Older-aged woman doing aqua therapy for balance in pool.

Travel exercises where you move from one point in the pool to another is important in balance training.

Single legged exercises where you stand on one leg and perform a continuous exercise movement with the opposite suspended leg is also important in this type of training. 

Pro Tip: Each exercise has a variation, starting with easy to advanced. When you keep your hands in the water, you’ll be able to assist your exercise movements with “sculling” (moving your hands forward and back to help keep your balance in the water). More advanced variations involve lifting your hands above surface. The exercises becomes more challenging as you raise your arms out of the water since you’ll be removing sculling assistance and raising your center of gravity. Try it for yourself!

Here are Three Aqua Therapy for Balance Exercises To Start With:

  1. “Tight Rope Walk”

    1. Walk forward (and back) on a “tight rope” where you place one foot in front of the other
    2. Experiment with arms slightly out of the water versus in the water. Notice the level of difficulty increase when you raise your arms out.
    3. Now try with arms straight up above the surface. Remember to engage your abdominal muscles and hold a good posture. 
  2. Single-Legged Bicycle

    1. Start with holding the ledge of the pool to get a feel for the motion & then experiment by lifting your hand away from the ledge as you stand on one foot and bicycle with the suspended leg. Repeat this exercises motion at least 8 times.
    2. Next, try lifting your arms out of the water slightly above the surface as you continue to bicycle.
    3. Finally, try the single-legged bicycle with arms straight up and out of the water. Notice the big difference in your core stabilization & don’t forget to do your other leg!
  3. Single-leg Abduction (or Lateral Raise)

    1. Standing on one leg, keep the opposite leg suspended and slightly bent. Raise your leg to the side (lateral raise) and back down to cross in front. Repeat and cross behind. Continue for at last 8 times while maintaining good posture and strong core. 
    2. Next, try this with hands slightly above the surface.
    3. And finally, try the more advanced variation with arms fully extended up and out of the water. Remember to do the other leg!

The Cherry on Top!

A closeup shot of a delicious cupcake with cream and cherry on top on a dessert stand

And now for the cherry on top, the advanced-advanced variation in these three exercises is to close your eyes! Yes, you read that right! When you close your eyes as you perform these exercises, you won’t be relying on your visual perception to aid your balance. Instead, you’ll be relying on what’s called “proprioception” – your body’s sense of self-movement, force, and body positioning. This is obviously more difficult but it is helpful in balance training. 

I hope you enjoyed this! Please let me know if you have any questions by leaving a comment below. Happy to help since this is a big passion of mine!

About the Author Justin Gauthier

Your aquafit instructor, here to set you up for success!

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