Swimming has dozens of benefits whether it is for training or rehabilitation and anything in between. For starters, most of us spend a majority of our training being vertical. Swimming allows us to train horizontally. This places a different effect on our blood circulatory system. Since the blood is not competing with gravity, the blood return to the heart is easier. This allows one to reach a higher V02 (volume of oxygen) max in the water compared to on land. Second, swimming has no ground force reaction to the body’s joints. Not that ground force is harmful, but it can be if one is injured or their running mileage volume is high. Furthermore, swimming is a full body exercise. If we look at the swim stroke freestyle, it requires full range of motion from the shoulders, core stabilization, and glute activation. All three of these are required for an efficient freestyle. Last, swimming is an effective modality for exercises or cross-training because it builds full body endurance, strength, and works your cardiovascular system.
When we break down swimming as a rehabilitation component it can be utilized no matter what body part is injured. For example, if the leg is injured, one places a buoy on the legs and just uses the arms. If the arm is injured, place fins on the legs and hold a board out in front of you. This allows any injured person to still be able to exercise even though they are injured.
Now, if you cannot swim there is modifications for that as well! You can simply wade in the shallow end of the pool and do a variety of exercises. If it is for training purposes, you can do high intensity interval training. Simply pick a handful of exercises such as running in place, jumping jacks, flutter kicks, knee tucks, squats etc. Do each exercise for 20-40 seconds then rest 20-40 seconds and repeat for 10-20 minutes depending your goals for that day.
Believe it or not we use pool rehabilitation with many of our post surgical knee injuries like an ACL tear. You can see a video of a patient’s pool rehabilitation HERE. After most knee surgeries, the patient will have limitations on how much weight bearing they can tolerate. The benefits of pool rehabilitation allows the patient to be partial weight bearing while strengthening all the muscles in their legs with an appropriate exercise progression protocol.
Whether you want to change up your exercise routine, add some cross-training in your schedule, or injured and still want to work out, swimming is a useful option for you. Remember, just because you are injured doesn’t mean you can no longer exercise. All it means is that you have to modify your exercise until you’re fully healthy again. If you have any questions on how to implement swimming into your exercise program or you’re injured and want to utilize the pool just set up an appointment today! We have a team full of health care providers willing to help get you to where you want to be in your goal of health and wellness.
Erik Bonn MS, ATC, PES
Head Athletic Trainer
Fusion Physical Therapy & Sports Performance