Why does immersing ourselves in water make us feel so good? Note the serene faces of those sinking into a hot tub or the exuberance of children splashing in a swimming pool. Bad moods and crankiness seem to dissolve in water. Perhaps the early Romans, who built their society around pools and bathing facilities, realized the therapeutic benefits eons ago.
Certainly, our early space program relied on water. In the late 1960s, the physiology of immersion was scrutinized extensively before sending astronauts into space since the closest substitute for weightlessness on earth occurs when immersed in water.
To study the physiological changes that would happen in space, it was crucial to analyze changes taking place during immersion. The results were pivotal and led to future research of specific body systems. Unfortunately, most of the studies were buried in scientific physiology journals instead of practical applications in the medical arena.
One would think that modern medicine coupled with the advancement of exercise science and physiology would produce volumes of affirming data on the clinical applications of aquatic exercise. Instead, translational research, the crossover from basic science to clinical application, is in aquatic infancy.
Each day, however, a plethora of advocates is turning to water for therapy, healing, and immense, if unexplainable, enjoyment. We’re truly on the cusp of vast possibilities in the aquatic industry.
Will water therapy and activities overpower our land based fitness mania? If accessible, it’s less daunting and painful than many traditional ‘dry’ pursuits. If the industry can substantiate and understand its scientific findings and market them effectively, aquatics could be the next panacea for health problems and joint friendly exercise. Not only will professional athletes and racehorses rehabilitate and train in H2O, the opportunities will be unlimited for the average person.
The American Heart Association states that 72 million Americans have high blood pressure and more than 79 million suffer from cardiovascular disease. Astounding! For the millions in this category who do not exercise, a suitable water fitness program could be the necessary enticement. We already know that soaking ourselves usually lowers blood pressure and puts less stress on our joints… possibly even increasing circulation to them. Other benefits are: enhances cardiovascular efficiency, increases muscle blood circulation, strengthens muscles for respiration, improves kidney function, and reduces stress hormones. What’s not to like?
Next week I’ll delve into some basic physiology that will help explain why aquatics is so good for our health. In the meantime, think about this. Our bodies continually strive for physiological balance known as homeostasis. This condition allows optimal function regardless of changes in activity, position, aging, stress, or disease. When we plunge into water, some of these changes occur immediately while others take longer.
As with many adaptations, a multitude of other physiological changes transpire, some subsequently and others simultaneously. What is happening to your body as you slip into that sparkling pool or melt in the hot tub? I know you’re smiling and saying, “Ahhhh, it feels so good.”
Kay Sager is a certified fitness and aquatic specialist living at Port of the Islands. She is a personal trainer using land and water fitness and teaches swimming. She also has written articles for Physician and Sports Medicine among other publications. Kay can be reached by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.