This article originally appeared in the October 2016 issue of Generations Magazine

Underwater treadmills (UTM) are revolutionizing physical therapy and fitness. Top athletes are utilizing UTM or treadmill pools for peak performance or speedy recovery after an injury. Underwater walking is very different from land-based walking, especially regarding shock absorption, energy expenditure and muscle activity.

Those with chronic conditions like osteoarthritis (OA) often avoid walking for exercise due to increased pain. In a study at Utah State University, OA patients reported a 140 percent increase in pain during land treadmill exercise compared to pain experienced during UTM sessions.

UTM users can exercise much longer against water resistance, increasing oxygen consumption and calorie burning.

Muscle activity is also higher, leading to greater hip, leg and foot strength, as well as improvements in core muscle groups throughout the body.

Many physical therapy clinics and athletic training rooms offer these systems — either self-propelled or motorized.