Aquatic Therapy to Improve Balance
Did you know that aquatic exercise has been shown to improve overall balance and decrease fear of falling?
It's true! Balance is modifiable. We practice this every day at our clinic and see real results in our clients. Let us tell you a little bit about the effect that aquatic therapy can have on balance.
Currently there are 600 million people aged 60 and older in the world; this figure is expected to double by 2025 and reach almost 2 billion by 2050. As we age, we face the risk of decreasing balance ability due to our change in vision, vestibular system, and somatosensory system. These are the 3 main systems that contribute to overall balance. With declining balance systems, we become more likely to have a fall and thus the risk of falling increases with age. Women are slightly at an increased risk than men. A number of other factors including weakness, medication use, and coexisting conditions can increase the likelihood of any individual’s balance-related troubles. With our quick aging population, fall prevention is key for an ongoing independent lifestyle and good quality of life.
Both changes in balance and a fear of falling can have an adverse impact on quality of life with age. This starts by manifesting poor self confidence which in turn leads to limited physical activity that eventually can create feelings of social isolation that decrease quality of life and increase dependence on others. So, it only makes sense that if by staying strong with physical activity we will positively impact our balance, then so it will our confidence in balance, fear of falling, and quality of life as we age.
So how do we promote fall prevention? One way to remain physically active is through aquatic exercise. Aquatic exercise is a low impact activity with decreased pressure on joints that provides a safe environment to exercise due to the low risk of falling. Aquatic exercise is recommended for people with fear of falling and those who are risk for falls. The water property can slow the movement and stop falls along with allowing increased time to regain posture when you get off balance.
Details from supporting research:
One study by Cesar Sa, MD and Antonio L Palmeira, PhD looked at how an aquatic exercise program over 12 weeks with 40-minute sessions twice per week impacts balance, risk of falls, fear of falling and quality of life in older adults. The study used common tools that most physical therapists use in everyday practice including the TUG, Balance Berg scale, the Falls Efficacy Scale, the SF 12v2 Health Survey and the International Physical activity questionnaire to obtain information prior to and at the conclusion of the aquatic program. The TUG assesses your risk of falling, the Berg assesses your static and dynamic balance with normal activities of daily living, the falls efficacy scale assesses your fear of falling and the Health Survey and Physical activity questionnaire look at your physical and mental health.
So, what did the study find? Well it found that balance in fact did increase significantly after completing the aquatic exercise program. There was also a reduction in falls and an improvement in fear of falling as well after the completion of the program.
Based on the conclusion of this study, it is recommended that aquatic exercise will improve balance, reduce the risk of falls, improve fear of falling and improve overall quality of life. Aquatic exercise provides a great option in fall prevention with our quick aging population.
Who are we? And how can we help?
We, the Maine Strong Balance Center, offer regular (what we like to refer to as “land”) physical therapy for balance in a gym/clinic setting. Also within our clinic, we have a 16’ x 20’ heated therapy pool for aquatic exercise (shown in the image above) which can always be considered an option for treatment. Quite often, we can meet the personal goals of our clients with the use of both land appointments and pool appointments. Incorporating visits both on land and in the pool develops a specialized, comprehensive program. Contact us at Maine Strong Balance Center if you would like to learn more about aquatic therapy.