The Benefits of Water Exercise

I moved into my new place the beginning of August 2012 and in the process of bending, lifting, kneeling, carrying loads, cleaning, etc. I must have injured my right knee.  I have a high tolerance for pain and tend to follow Monty Python’s “It’s just a flesh wound” theory regarding resilience and stamina.  From mid-August to mid-September my knee became progressively worse.  While at my doctor’s office I was seen by a medical assistant who said I probably had patellar tendinitis.  I was advised to rest my knee.  Initially, I did rest it and tried to avoid any stress on that joint.  The body has a way of compensating for an injury and when this happens other muscles and joints that wouldn’t normally be used in a particular way can start to hurt, too.  Eventually, my whole body ached and then my spirit did as well because I couldn’t do a lot of activities without feeling some pain.

Two of my clients that I see in my occupational therapy private practice live on the second floor of buildings that do not have an elevator.  Ascending stairs, walking on uneven surfaces, and getting in and out of my car were particularly painful activities.  My job required me to do overcome these challenges plus I’m currently enrolled in a night class where the campus is on a hill.  One afternoon on an unusually warm day in San Francisco, I stopped at the beach.  I approached a staircase that led to the beach and realized it would stress my knee too much and cause pain to walk on sand, an uneven surface.  Under normal circumstances, walking on sand is a great workout for the lower extremities.  I love to walk and I love the beach and not being able to do that activity in that environment dampened my spirit.  I needed to do something to help myself heal.  My overall physical and mental health could no longer afford to be affected by my knee injury.

Over the years I’ve participated in aqua aerobics (water exercise/water fitness/aquatics).  I realized this would be my ticket to healing and rehabilitation since the body isn’t as strained in water during exercise as it is on land and yet the benefits of water exercise equal if not exceed land exercise. In the water, I am mindful of my body and how it moves.  I feel like a dancer, graceful as I swirl.  A gymnast, agile as I jump.  An athlete, flexible as I stretch.  After just a handful of classes my knee feels so much better.  I have been able to ambulate more easily and quickly since I started to exercise in the water.  My body feels as though it went from ‘crunchy’ to ‘soft’ in its ability to move.  I’m sleeping harder and better at night.  This week was the first time in two months that I was able to walk upstairs and get in and out of my car without feeling pain in my knee.  I’m not 100%, but I’m getting there.

Thanks to Jon and Clive at the YMCA who granted me permission to take a photo inside the pool area and who are great aqua aerobics instructors, too!

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