Bressel (2014) High intensity interval training on aquatic treadmill in adults with osteoarthritis: effect on pain, balance, function and mobility

Introduction to Aquatic Treadmill Exercise for Osteoarthritis

Aquatic exercise is considered beneficial for individuals with osteoarthritis (OA), offering a low-impact alternative to land-based exercises. This study explores the effects of a 6-week high-intensity interval training (HIT) program on an aquatic treadmill, focusing on pain reduction, balance improvement, functional enhancement, and increased mobility in adults with knee OA.

Methodology and Training Protocol

Eighteen participants diagnosed with knee or hip OA underwent a 4-week control period without exercise, followed by a 6-week aquatic treadmill exercise regimen. The program included balance training and HIT, utilizing water jets to provide resistance and destabilization, aimed at achieving high perceived exertion levels. Pre- and post-training assessments measured pain, balance, functional ability, and mobility.

Key Findings: Pain Reduction and Improved Balance

Post-training results showed significant reductions in joint pain and improvements in balance. Participants reported lower immediate and usual pain levels post-exercise, indicating that high-intensity aquatic exercise might not exacerbate OA pain but could potentially offer relief. Improved balance scores suggest enhanced stability, crucial for fall prevention in the OA population.

Enhancements in Function and Mobility

Functional tests, such as the sit-to-stand and forward lunge tests, revealed better performance post-training, indicating strength gains in the lower extremities. Moreover, participants demonstrated faster walking speeds, aligning with healthy normative data, which highlights the potential of aquatic HIT in restoring mobility and daily function in individuals with OA.

Practical Applications and Future Directions

The study supports the efficacy of aquatic treadmill HIT in managing OA symptoms, with excellent adherence and no reported adverse effects. This training modality offers a viable, low-impact option for OA patients, potentially improving quality of life and reducing the risk of falls. Future research could explore longer intervention periods and compare aquatic HIT with other exercise forms, broadening the understanding of its long-term benefits and applicability.

download article