Background and purpose.
Shallow water gait, defined as any form of walking or running where the foot contacts the bottom of a pool to propel a person's body through water, lacks a review of the literature. The purpose of this study was to provide a review of the biomechanical and physiological effects of shallow water gait to help establish clinical applications.
Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis (PRISMA) were followed. A medical librarian conducted a search in PubMed, CINHAL, and Embase. Articles were screened for eligibility criteria by four reviewers. Data was extracted and assessed for risk of bias using the Downs and Black Tool.
1836 articles were identified. Following duplicate removal, 1676 articles remained. 21 articles were eligible for data extraction. Biomechanical findings included significantly decreased ground reaction forces and altered gait kinematics during shallow water compared to land based gait. Heart rate and VO2 findings were lower during submaximal testing in shallow water, while max testing yielded similar results when compared to land based gait.
Decreased ground reaction forces and properties of water can favorably alter gait mechanics during shallow water gait. Heart rate, VO2 and rate of perceived exertion all had a positive correlation with intensity, which is a similar response to land based gait. This makes training in an aquatic environment a viable option to maintain or improve cardiovascular fitness if land based locomotion is contraindicated because of high biomechanical stress on the body.
Inconsistency in research methods makes it difficult to compare the evidence on shallow water gait. However, the current evidence suggests that shallow water gait can be used to decrease ground reaction forces associated with walking and running, while maintaining the physiological benefits of land based exercise. Thus, making shallow water gait a viable environment for training.