Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Health, Physical Education, and Recreation

Committee Chair(s)

Eadric Bressel


Eadric Bressel


Edward M. Heath


Brian T. Larsen


Due to recent advances in aquatic research, technology, and facilities, many modes of aquatic therapy now exist. These aquatic modes assist individuals (e.g., osteoarthritis patients) in the performance of activities that may be too difficult to complete on land. However, the biomechanical requirements of each aquatic therapy mode may elicit different physiological and functional responses. Therefore, the purpose of this thesis was to: (a) provide a review of the physiological and biomechanical differences between aquatic and land based exercises, and (b) examine the acute effects of underwater and land treadmill exercise on oxygen consumption (VO2), rating of perceived exertion (RPE), perceived pain, mobility, and gait kinematics for patients with osteoarthritis (OA). Methods consisted of the retrieval of experimental studies examining the physiological and biomechanical effects of deep water running (DWR), shallow water running (SWR), water calisthenics, and underwater treadmill therapy. The methods also examined the physiological and biomechanical effects on 19 participants during and after three consecutive exercise sessions on an underwater treadmill and on a land-based treadmill. Based on the studies reviewed, when compared to a similar land-based mode, VO2 values are lower during both DWR and SWR, but can be higher during water calisthenics and underwater treadmill exercise. RPE responses during DWR are similar during max effort, and stride frequency and stride length are both lower in all four aquatic modes than on land. Pain levels are no different between most water calisthenics, and most studies reported improvements in mobility after aquatic therapy, but no difference between the aquatic and land-based modes. The OA participants achieved VO2 values that were not different between conditions during moderate intensities, but were 37% greater during low intensity exercise on land than in water (p = 0.001). Perceived pain and Time Up & Go scores were 140% and 240% greater, respectively, for land than underwater treadmill exercise (p = 0.01). Patients diagnosed with OA may walk on an underwater treadmill at a moderate intensity with less pain and equivalent energy expenditures compared to walking on a land-based treadmill.