The Science of Deep Water Running

People start doing Fluid Running for a number of different reasons, but it’s often because they are told it’s a great workout, or it’s something they can do while they’re injured.  Once they learn about the science behind how it works, they go on to tell others.  That’s exactly what Jennifer Conroyd did after she discovered deep water running after tearing a calf muscle.  Once she dug into the science, she knew she had to spread the word, and that’s exactly what she’s done.

“I didn’t understand the science then, but I now prescribe deep water running 100% for injured runners, as well as to improve performance when healthy and to prevent overuse injuries.” – Dr. Megan Leahy, DPM

Scientific Overviews

Bruce E. Becker, MD, MS
American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Vol. 1, 859-872, Sept. 2009

The Physiological Effects of Aquatic Exercise  A summary of available studies
Len Kravitz, Ph.D and J.J. Mayo, Ph.D.

Maintain and Improve Fitness

“It was concluded that deep water running may serve as an effective training alternative to land-based running for the maintenance of aerobic performance for up to 6 wk in trained endurance athletes.” – source

Kinematic  responses were  similar within and between groups. Water running may  serve as an effective complementary training over a period of 8 weeks up to 30% of land training volume for competitive runners. – source

[Hydrotherapy] enables the stimulation of metabolic and neuromuscular systems, followed by their corresponding physiological adaptations allowing both to maintain and improve athletic performance. Hydrotherapy can also play a beneficial role in an athlete’s recovery, helping to prevent as well as treat muscle damage and soreness following exercise. – source

Deep water running (DWR) is an ideal exercise alternative to swimming or cycling for the injured soldier on a non-weight bearing profile because of the similar mechanics to land-based running. Unlike swimming or cycling, there is evidence that run performance can be maintained or improved with DWR. DWR also offers a good alternative form ofexercise to prevent injuries occurring from excessive land weight bearing exercise. – source

Injury Prevention

Since Dr. Killgore (President & Founder of AQx) has been Head Cross Country and Track and Field Coach at Linfield College, his runners have suffered a less than 1% incidence rate of stress fractures! As many of you know, a normal running population’s rate is 4-14% and is even higher for the collegiate and elite ranks (as high as 35%). – source

Rehab and Healing

“Does exercising in the water help my bone density? There are two sides to every debate, however, the answer in this situation is very clear – Yes! There are several factors that have been researched to support this finding. First, the resistance of the water just from physical movement places a demand on the skeletal system, thus placing a load on the bones. Once the bones are subjected to this stress they are forced to respond and increase muscle tension. This entire process results in stronger and denser bones – source

Weight Loss

Aquatic exercise would seem to offer the safest and most protective environment for obese individuals because of the buoyancy effects of immersion, which minimizes the risk of joint injury. source

Deep water running was able to modulate immune-endocrine parameters in absence of significant improvements in body composition or VO2Peak in overweight-obesity women. This training could be an interesting tool to control the obesity related chronic low-grade inflammation.  source


Review of the Cooper Clinic database of more than 40,000 men showed exercise swimmers to have less than half the mortality risk of sedentary men, and, surpris- ingly, approximately half the mortality risk of exercise walkers and runners. All these effects are good reasons to use the aquatic environment in training and rehabilitation. source

Recommended Workouts

  • $20.00 [62 min] [Run] We motivate and challenge you to run from start to finish with a few hills to tackle, short pick-ups, mile marker-shout outs and water stops to make you feel like you just completed a 10K race.
  • $20.00 [55 min] [Track Workout] This is a runner-focused workout with TRACK SETS as the meat of this workout.  Mile run, 800's (two times around the track), 400s (one time around the track) and 200s (half a lap).