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Brad S. Lambert, Ph.D, CSCCA-SCCC


Has there ever been a time when you decided to begin an exercise program or turn your current exercise program up a notch with an increase in workout time or intensity? Also, have you ever experienced prolonged muscle soreness days after doing so? If so, you have probably experienced delayed onset muscle soreness. Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is a phenomenon that often arises at the beginning of a new exercise training regimen or if the intensity of a training program increases abruptly. This soreness commonly appears 48-72 hours after exercise and persists for 3-5 days following exercise. This soreness has also been associated with muscle damage and decreases in muscular power. In other words, this soreness can decrease your ability to vigorously exercise in the days following your initial intense bout. Because of this, those who are used to training hard may be discouraged that they are not able to exercise at a desired intensity. For individuals beginning an exercise program, this prolonged soreness may be discouraging enough to cause them to withdraw from an exercise program. While not everyone aims to train at a high intensity such as elite athletes, delayed onset muscle soreness can affect anyone who is beginning an exercise program.

There are a number of pain-relieving strategies designed to reduce muscle soreness in the minutes, hours, and days following intense exercise including cold water therapy,stretching, massage therapy, as well as the use of NSAIDS. Also, performing light aerobic exercise such as stationary cycling immediately after and in the days following intense exercise has been shown to reduce delayed onset muscle soreness and promote recovery as well. This is what is called “Active Recovery.”  Recently, aquatic treadmill running has become a popular therapeutic tool as a means of active rehabilitation for lower limb injuries. This type of exercise involves running on a motorized treadmill in waist to chest depth water with additional resistance provided by water jets. However, little is known about its effects on soreness following strenuous sport exercises like sprinting. In a study conducted in the Applied Exercise Science Laboratory at Texas A&M University, it was determined that fit men who performed aquatic treadmill running for a period of 10 minutes at a low intensity after intense sprint exercise experienced significantly less soreness immediately following, 24 hours, and 48 hours after exercise compared to fit men who performed stretching only following exercise.  Therefore, it was determined that aquatic treadmill running significantly reduces muscle soreness and may enhance recovery following intense sprint exercise. As aquatic treadmill exercise becomes more popular, it is our hope that it will be made more available to the general public as portable models are now in production for home swimming pools and corporate gyms. However, for those who do not have access to aquatic treadmills, these authors recommend light running in shallow water following intense sprint exercise to minimize soreness and enhance recovery.   

For more information read these additional references:

  1. B.S. Lambert, C.R. Hewitt, C.M. Lowrie, M.C. Milner, J.S. Green, and S.F. Crouse. Aquatic treadmill running reduces muscle soreness following intense sprint exercise in trained men. ABSTRACT: Int J Exerc Sci. 2011. http://digitalcommons.wku.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1218&context=ijesab
  2.  N.P. Greene, B.S. Lambert, E.S. Greene, A.F. Carbuhn, J.S. Green, S.F. Crouse. Comparative Efficacy of Water and Land Treadmill Training for Overweight or Obese Adults. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2009. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19657288
  3. K. Cheung, P.A. Hume, and Linda Maxwell. Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness: Treatment Strategies and Performance Factors. Sports Med. 2003. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12617692
  4. W.M. Denning, E. Bressel, and D.G. Dolny. Underwater Treadmill Exercise as a Potential Treatment for Adults with Osteoarthritis. Int J Aquatic Res Educ. 201. http://journals.humankinetics.com/ijare-back-issues/ijarevolume4issue1february/underwatertreadmillexerciseasapotentialtreatmentforadultswithosteoarthritis
  • Aquatic Treadmill Running


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