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Aquatic Therapy Doesn't Just Make Waves—It Boosts Brain Power

Dive into the latest evidence showing that aquatic therapy doesn't just make waves—it boosts brain power! Studies reveal that water-based exercises significantly enhance cerebral blood flow (CBF) more than land-based workouts.

From a 21% increase in middle cerebral artery blood flow velocity to optimized brain perfusion with water immersion and temperature control, aquatic therapy is a game-changer.

Plus, the cognitive benefits linked to these CBF boosts make a compelling case: for a brain boost, take the plunge!

The latest and strongest evidence on the benefit of aquatic therapy on cerebral blood flow (CBF) includes several studies that explicitly measure CBF as an outcome:

1. Parfitt et al. (2017): This study demonstrated that aquatic treadmill exercise significantly increased middle cerebral artery blood flow velocity (MCAv) by 21% compared to 12% during land-based treadmill exercise, indicating a superior effect of aquatic exercise on CBF.[1]

2. Carter et al. (2014): This study found that water immersion to the level of the right atrium increased cerebral perfusion, with significant increases in blood flow velocities in the middle and posterior cerebral arteries during immersion.[2]

3. Carter et al. (2024): This study investigated the effects of water temperature on CBF during aquatic exercise. It found that cycle ergometry in 32°C water increased MCAv more than in 38°C water or land-based exercise, highlighting the importance of water temperature in optimizing CBF benefits.[3]

4. Shirzad et al. (2022): This study showed that both active and passive exercise increased CBF through the middle cerebral artery, with passive exercise also providing a significant boost to executive function, suggesting that increased CBF mediates cognitive benefits.[4]

5. Gonçalves et al. (2022): This randomized clinical trial evaluated the effect of a water-based physical exercise protocol on electroencephalographic activity and found that aquatic exercise maintained cerebral electrical activity, which is indirectly related to CBF.[5]

These studies collectively support the notion that aquatic therapy can significantly enhance cerebral blood flow, particularly when considering factors such as exercise modality and water temperature.


  1. Parfitt R, Hensman MY, Lucas SJE. Cerebral Blood Flow Responses to Aquatic Treadmill Exercise. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 2017;49(7):1305-1312. doi:10.1249/MSS.0000000000001230.

  2. Carter HH, Spence AL, Pugh CJ, et al. Cardiovascular Responses to Water Immersion in Humans: Impact on Cerebral Perfusion. American Journal of Physiology. Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology. 2014;306(9):R636-40. doi:10.1152/ajpregu.00516.2013.

  3. Carter HH, Pienaar O, Coleman A, et al. The Effects of Water Temperature on Cerebral Blood Flow During Aquatic Exercise. European Journal of Applied Physiology. 2024;124(1):219-225. doi:10.1007/s00421-023-05264-7.

  4. Shirzad M, Tari B, Dalton C, et al. Passive Exercise Increases Cerebral Blood Flow Velocity and Supports a Postexercise Executive Function Benefit. Psychophysiology. 2022;59(12):e14132. doi:10.1111/psyp.14132.

  5. Gonçalves GCV, Santos ATS, Calixto Júnior R, et al. Aquatic Exercise on Brain Activity in Type 2 Diabetic: Randomized Clinical Trial. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2022;19(22):14759. doi:10.3390/ijerph192214759.

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