Physical therapists can develop an appropriate exercise program for you.
Muscle atrophy is most commonly caused by disuse or not using the muscles enough. This occurs in people with significant medical illnesses requiring bed rest or prolonged periods of immobilization. However, it can also occur in sedentary people, including those with desk jobs, and in the older population as they become less active. Monitoring your diet and increasing activity can improve your muscle quality. Exercising in the water creates a natural resistance and eliminates pressure and stress on joints, making water the optimum exercise environment for disuse atrophy.
Work Out Your Legs
Lower body exercises can be easily reproduced in the water depending on your needs. You can perform calf raises, mini squats, standing hamstring curls, hip kicks and lunges in waist or chest deep water while holding onto the pool wall for support. Walking in water, both forward and backward, is an effective way to strengthen your entire body. You can also hold onto the pool wall and perform cycling motions for lower body strengthening and aerobic conditioning. If your body can tolerate, running in the pool is one of the best whole body exercises you can perform. You can run in waist deep water along the pool floor or deep water with a floatation device.
Tone Your Arms
Upper body exercises can also translate to the pool environment; however, the benefits of water are present only if the joints you are exercising are immersed. In chest deep water, you can perform biceps curls, chest presses and shoulder raises to the front and side. You can also try upright rows and butterflys. Adding water weights with all upper body exercises will provide greater strength benefits. You can also cup your hands as you walk or run through the water to increase the benefits to your upper body.
Increasing protein intake is essential to rebuilding muscle mass. Increase your lean meat intake and look for vegetarian sources such as legumes or beans and tofu to get the most out of your diet. Women need to eat at least 46 g per day and men need to consume at least 56 g daily. You should include protein at all three meals and ideally add in two healthy snacks, such as whole fruit and veggies.
Neurogenic atrophy occurs with neurological disorders that inhibit communication between the nerves and muscles. This is common with neurological damage to the nerves, spinal cord, or brain. Neurogenic atrophy is more difficult to treat and does not always respond to exercise and improved diet alone. Involving your physician and physical therapist in your treatment will optimize your recovery for neurogenic atrophy.
Speak with your health care provider prior to starting any exercise program. During exercise, watch for sudden shortness of breath, chest pain or lightheadedness and stop exercising immediately if you develop any of these symptoms. If you have difficulty entering and exiting the pool, find a facility that has a chair lift to allow for easier access. Consider wearing a floatation vest in any depth water to ensure your safety or take a partner with you to provide support if needed.