The Science and Benefits of Hydrotherapy

This form of exercise could be for you!

But first, what is hydrotherapy and how does it work?

Hydrotherapy or aquatic exercise as it is also known, refers to a specific type of treatment involving exercising in water. Hydrotherapy can be used to help improve one’s mobility, both pre and post-surgery as well as allowing people to complete movements that their disability and pain, like arthritis, may prevent. The pool is usually heated to 32- 34 degrees and have varying depths of water, along with easy access for people with disabilities, such as ramps, water wheelchairs and hoists. Hydrotherapy also involves the use of special exercise equipment, so we can strengthen muscles, improve posture and walking ability in a pain free way! (3)

The pool is set to a warm temperature as this helps to relax your muscles, stimulate circulation, reduce pain, decrease swelling and to help reduce spasticity which is beneficial for people with a physical disability such as Cerebral Palsy.

Hydrotherapy takes advantage of the buoyancy effect the water has on your body. The buoyancy is beneficial as it reduces stress on your joints, bones and muscles by reducing the weight-bearing load that goes through these structures. This means that the exercises performed in the water and more supported and less painful than on land. This is beneficial for people with physical disabilities that find it difficult to walk on land due to the pain caused from weight bearing activities.

Hydrotherapy also uses the principle of water density. As water density is greater than air density, your muscles need to work harder to overcome the resistance of moving in water. The amount of resistance you apply can vary depending on the depth of water, speed of movement and action you are producing. This allows for a variety in the exercise prescription depending on the goals of the client and the goals set out by the Exercise Physiologist.

Who can benefit from hydrotherapy?
There is a long list of benefits that hydrotherapy can provide for people with disabilities and for people with chronic conditions (2) Hydrotherapy has proven to:
• Help manage pain levels
• Work on your balance
• Improve co-ordination
• Improve strength and function
• Increasing range of motion in joints
• Improve aerobic capacity which is necessary for daily activities.

Hydrotherapy not only has physical benefits; it can also benefit one’s mental health. Hydrotherapy can also facilitate social inclusion and can increase your independence and confidence in accessing the local community. (5) Hydrotherapy has proven to increase self-confidence in people’s physical abilities; it can improve your mood, as well as changing your perception of exercise! It doesn’t have to be painful, it can be fun!

By itself, or in addition to land-based exercise, hydrotherapy has proven to increase rates of adherence to exercise when people are affected by chronic pain. Sticking to exercise long term is important to improve one’s overall functioning, wellbeing and quality of life. (4)

Hydrotherapy has the potential for countless physical and mental health benefits, not limited to better movement, less pain and improved function and mobility. People from all walks of life and varying levels of ability can benefit from hydrotherapy. Give us a call and ask our Exercise Physiologists if you could benefit from hydrotherapy!


1. Doole, S. (2017). One drop in the ocean. Retrieved from

2. Geytenbeek, J. (2002). Evidence for effective Hydrotherapy. Physiotherapy. 88(9), 514-529.

3. Mulligan, H., & Polkinghorne A. (2013). Community use of a hospital pool by people with disabilities. Disability and Health Journal. 6 (4), 385-390.

4. Silva, L., Valim, V., Pessanha, A., Oliveira, L., Myamoto, S., Jones, A., & Natour, J. (2008). Hydrotherapy Versus Conventional Land-Based Exercise for the Management of Patients With Osteoarthritis of the Knee: A Randomized Clinical Trial. American Physical Therapy Association. 88 (1), 12-21. DOI: 10.2522/ptj.20060040

5. Stan, A. (2012). The benefits of participation in aquatic activities for people with disabilities. Romanian Sports Medicine Society. 13 (1), 1737-1742. Retrieved from