Treadmill under water? It exists and it improves your strength

April 22, 2018

As you know from reading other Strokemark articles, treadmill training is an effective way to improve your walking. But now there is a twist. What if the treadmill goes underwater? Yes, Aquatic Treadmill Training (ATT) is pretty much what it sounds like. Patients exercise on a motorized treadmill in a pool. Water provides extra support and safety to an exercise we already know is good for leg strength and the cardiorespiratory (heart and lung) system.

A team of Korean researchers is especially interested in this subject. In their new study focusing on ATT to help stroke patients, they suggest that this therapy promotes knee strength and cardiorespiratory fitness. If you are a stroke patient looking to strengthen your legs or increase your general level of physical fitness, you should look into finding a fitness or rehab facility that offers ATT.


Comparing Aquatic Treadmill Training to land-based aerobic exercise

The researchers randomly divided 32 sub-acute stroke patients (two to six months post-stroke) into two groups. Both groups received a conventional rehabilitation therapy program that included physical therapy and occupational therapy for four weeks. Additionally, one group (control group) received 30 minutes of land-based aerobic exercise for 30 minutes a day, five days a week. The other group received 30 minutes of Aquatic Treadmill Training for the same amount of time.

For the aquatic treadmill group, the 30 minutes contained a 5-minute warm-up, 20-minute training, followed by a 5-minute cool-down. The therapists set the water level to patient’s waist. They set the treadmill speed to about 33 percent of the patient’s walking speed. The speed was gradually increased as long as the patient maintained proper posture and alignment. Both water level and tempo could be adjusted as needed to help the patient keep good form. Water temperature was a comfortable 90 to 96 degrees Fahrenheit.

The effects of aquatic treadmill training

After four weeks, the patients in the Aquatic Treadmill Training group had made more progress gaining knee muscle strength and cardiorespiratory fitness than the control group.  Additional advantages of ATT include the therapeutic effects of warm water and the support offered by water allowing standing and weight bearing to patients who are not able to do so on land. Researchers must conduct further studies with more participants. However, this one indicates that ATT is promising for helping stroke patients improve their ability to walk.

Details about Aquatic Treadmill Training

Aquatic Treadmill Training requires a special treadmill found at many fitness centers and physical therapy/rehab facilities. Many health insurers cover ATT. Consult with your provider while planning your therapy. If your health insurance does not cover it, ATT usually costs about $100 per session.

The lead author of this study is So Young Lee, MD, Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, Jeju National University Hospital, Jeju, Republic of Korea.

What you can do with this information

Editorial note:

Even if it sounds a little far-fetched, walking underwater may have benefits over using a standard treadmill.

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