Water Exercise

Summer is just around the corner and as the weather warms up, getting in the pool to cool down sounds like a great idea.   Well, it’s rare that we need a pool to cool us off in San Francisco.  Besides keeping us cool, we can exploit the pool’s properties (buoyancy, viscosity, and hydrostatic pressure) to provide us with some wonderful therapeutic benefits.  Some exercises that are painful and difficult to do on land can be performed with less or no pain in a pool. These properties can make it one of the best ways to exercise for those who have musculoskeletal injury or pain for many different reasons, such as arthritis, healing after surgery, fibromyalgia, pregnancy, low back pain, and obesity.

When you get into a pool, you will feel lighter – a wonderful benefit because of buoyancy.  The deeper you are in the water, the more buoyant you will feel.  Water’s bouyancy reduces the effects of gravity, making us feeling lighter without dieting.  Less weight means less stress on our joints.   If there is less stress on the joints, weary muscles supporting the joints can relax. With less joint stress and more relaxed muscles, pain can be noticeably less.

Also, when you are in the pool, you will notice that your movements feel resisted.  This resistance is because of water’s viscosity.  You will feel a gentle resistance from the water if you are moving through your exercise slowly (or by simply making a fist as you move your arm in the water).  To increase the resistance, you can move faster (or open your hand as you move your arm in the water) without having to stop and pick up a different dumbbell.  You can easily change from gentle to challenging (or vice versa) very quickly during your aquatic exercise.

The hydrostatic pressure or the pressure of the water aids in improving circulation in the legs and feet.  As you go deeper into the water, your body will experience more pressure.  This pressure pushes the swelling in the legs and feet toward where the body can get rid of it.  With less swelling, your movements can be easier and less painful.  

Some of the benefits of exercising in water include decreasing pain, stiffness, muscle spasm, and muscle guarding.  Being supported by the water improves posture, balance and coordination.  Exercise in the water also increases circulation, range of motion, strength and endurance. You have the freedom to move your arms and legs in the water with less stress on joints and with less pain. Doesn’t that sound relaxing?

Some therapeutic pools are warm ranging from 85-92 degrees Farenheit and may require clearance from a doctor to participate. 

Here are links to some of the warm pools in San Francisco:

Janet Pomeroy


-SF Parks and Rec

Mission Bay

CPMC  (Community Pool Programs at Pacific and Davies Campuses)


Benefits of pool therapy

Info on pool therapy


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