HomeBlogExercising in water has its advantages, and some magic?

Exercising in water has its advantages, and some magic?

"If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water" or so the American anthropologist and poet Loran Eiseley argued. This writer, a nature lover, probably exaggerated somewhat, but notice how the experience we describe below proves him right.

A few days ago, the programme "Therapy without barriers: Plis Plas, in the water", as part of the MatiaZaleak initiative, concluded, through which we put to the test this almost mystical virtue of one of the elements on which life depends. At Matia, as you already know, we accompany both the elderly and people with functional diversity in their ageing process, promoting their autonomy and well-being through a model of care focused on the person. The initiative we are talking about today has involved people with functional diversity from our IZA centre.

Knowing the habits and life stories of the people who live in this home, we realized that many of them had previously had some relationship with water, and surely missed those good times swimming in a pool. Being aware of this situation, and taking into account the needs of rehabilitation and physical maintenance of each one of them, as well as their habits and lifestyles, we made an assessment of how to put something in place to cover this need, with the options that were in our closest environment.

In the end, we opted for a hydrokinesitherapy programme and decided to do it in Hegalak, a gymnasium located in a unique enclave such as Paseo de la Concha, with accessibility conditions that satisfied our needs and which, being for all audiences, would favour the integration and community life of the participants. In this way, as well as enjoying the activity itself, we would take a walk around the city and leave the usual circle of relationships, working, too, on aspects such as orientation and memory in a new space.

Photo of the team of physiotherapists and assistants who have participated in the hydrokinesitherapy programme

Hydrocinetic... what???

And you say, what is this hydrokinesitherapy? In short, it is a personalised exercise programme carried out in the water, under the supervision and direction of specialised physiotherapists.

By immersing ourselves in the water we can manage to reduce the effect of gravity by up to 90% thanks to the buoyancy. This facilitates rehabilitation processes compared to conventional means. Depending on the degree of immersion, the load on the joints of the lower extremities and the spine is reduced. The more we immerse ourselves, the lower the load on the joints. Therefore, this facilitates movement and the possibility of doing so with very weak muscles. It also allows us to work on strengthening muscles by using water as a resistance; stretching possible muscle-tendon retractions; reducing spasticity or the possibility of working on postural re-education. 

In addition, physical exercise increases the amount of blood that reaches the brain by increasing endorphin levels. The latter help to cushion pain and increase the feeling of well-being, thus improving stress, aggression and anxiety. It could therefore be said that this type of water activity contributes to the physical, psychological and social improvement of people.

Implementation and development

As with all projects at the beginning, funding had to be sought. In this chapter we have to thank the collaboration of GRUPO EASO MOTOR that offered us a donation that has allowed us to face the expenses associated with this programme. In addition, we encouraged collaboration with other agents, such as the Easo Polytechnic training centre, and students from this centre accompanied us, so that there is more individualised learning and accompaniment.


With all this resolved, we formed a total of four groups made up of a small number of people living in IZA, who met two premises: their treatment benefited from the implementation of this programme, and secondly, their life stories highlighted interest in and familiarity with the aquatic environment. Every week a group of about five people travelled by taxi to Hegalak, accompanied by people they knew, and once in the water they were guided through the exercises by a professional from the centre.

People and their experience

Those of us who have accompanied these people throughout these months that this activity has lasted have seen a verifiable improvement in the well-being and quality of life of all of them.

For example, we can tell you about Lorea, a woman who had lost her mobility due to an inflammatory disease and a long period of bed rest. She had been unable to walk for almost two years, and in the first session of hydrokinesitherapy she was able to walk again. After several sessions in the pool, she has managed to improve a lot in the individual treatment she continues to do out of water, even being able to carry on her legs.

Or the case of Naiara, who as a result of an operation suffers from partial paralysis affecting her right arm and leg. In the water, we manage to do all the weight-bearing exercises planned for that side, both sitting and standing. During the session, and even after it was over, she was happy, smiling and much more communicative.

Patxi told us that in the summer season he was able to go to Santa Clara Island (in La Concha Bay) and back twice. Since he had a health limitation many years ago, he had not experienced what it was like to swim in a pool. Well, look, in the first session he dives into the water with a water chair and jumps out of it to start swimming, being able to swim several lengths of the pool. Then he switches to the warm water pool to exercise and relax. You find it a very rewarding experience.

On the way to the pool, Nekane shares her joy and enthusiasm at being able to enjoy this experience. The tour brings back fond memories as she sees her old school. She works on her memory, reminiscence, stimulation... And once in the water, she really enjoys participating actively in the exercises planned and sharing them with her classmates. With the sessions completed, there has been a great advance and she has once again remembered and practiced swimming.

As you can see, water has something magical for people. Perhaps the poet was not too far off track...

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