Water Works
Aquatic therapy for osteoporosis

Low bone mass and osteoporosis affect approximately 44 million American men and women over the age of 50. Ten million individuals are estimated to already have the disease and almost 34 million more are estimated to have low bone mass.1 The term osteoporosis simply means "porous bone" and is characterized by a decrease in bone mass and a deterioration of bone tissue that leads to fragile bones and the risk of fractures. Often, this disease goes undetected until a simple bump, fall, handshake, or, even worse, a hug from a loved one causes a broken bone.

One of the most important things you can do to prevent or reduce the effects of osteoporosis is to maintain a regular exercise routine. Weight-bearing activities, such as walking or jogging, and resistance exercise, build muscle strength as well as improve your balance and body awareness, thereby reducing your risk of falls. Unfortunately, if a loving hug can break a rib, imagine how terrifying it must be to attempt an exercise routine. This is where aquatic therapy can help.

Water serves as a safety net for individuals with osteoporosis. Physical therapy in a swimming pool provides a safe place for you to exercise without putting yourself at risk for falls or broken bones. Aquatic therapy increases muscle strength, decreases pain by reducing weight-bearing forces to joints and bones, improves balance, speeds the rate of recovery, and increases proprioception (your body's ability to sense muscle and joint positioning). Aquatic therapy can help you relax and improve your circulation, range of motion, muscle tone, and self confidence. Half the battle of reducing falls is eliminating the fear. Aquatic exercise can do just that.

The aquatic exercises illustrated below can help you improve your strength, balance, and coordination. Aquatic therapy can complicate rather than complement certain conditions. So, before you begin any exercise program, first discuss the program with your doctor or other health care professional.

Shannon B. Lucas, PTA
Columbus, Georgia

Click on each exercise for details


  1. National Osteoporosis Foundation. Disease Statistics. Available at: www.nof.org. Accessed May 20, 2002.
  2. International Osteoporosis Foundation. Available at: www.osteofound.org. Accessed April 2002.
  3. Balance Through Buoyancy. ADVANCE for Physical Therapists and Physical Therapist Assistants online. Available at: www.Advanceforpt.com. Accessed April 2002.
  4. Bates A, Hansen N. The Principles and Properties of Water: Aquatic Exercise and Therapy. Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders Co; 1996:21-28.