Many people believe that water aerobics or other types of aquatic exercise are for those with bad knees or brand-new hips—a last resort for staying fit. But in fact, working out in water is great for everyone. People of all ages, abilities, and fitness levels can use aquatic exercise to improve muscle endurance as well as core strength and endurance, while burning an estimated 400 to 500 calories in one hour of exercise. Plus, it keeps the body cool during exercise and is just plain fun.  

Test the Waters

Consider taking a supervised class first to learn how to get the most benefit out of aquatic exercise; after that, if you have access to a swimming pool, you can work out on your own or with friends if you prefer. 

Find an aquatic exercise class or workout routine that challenges you. Like a “land-based” workout routine, exercising in water can include a variety of stretching, strengthening, and cardio work. You only have to try jogging or doing jumping jacks in waist-deep water to find how much work it is—and you can kick your aqua routine up a notch by adding props like resistance weights and gloves, kickboards, and even pool noodles. 

Add a Splash of Fun

At Splendido, an all-inclusive community in Oro Valley for those 55 and better, residents can choose from a variety of fitness classes in indoor and outdoor swimming pools; the classes work on a range of goals—including strengthening their upper and lower bodies and cardiovascular and respiratory systems. They are also reducing body fat and toning and building lean muscle. 

Diane Steele has been taking the Aquamotion class at Splendido three times a week since she moved in four years ago. “It’s invigorating, and it’s a lot of fun,” she says. “I’d say of all the things Splendido offers, I enjoy that class the most.” Todd Lutz, Get Fit Coordinator at Splendido, leads the class and will play high-energy music to keep participants moving. “The music makes me move more, and we’ll sing along if we know the words—I call it ‘water karaoke’,” says Diane. She’s noticed physical benefits from the exercise as well as enjoyment. “I recently went for a bone density exam, and the results turned out to be really good,” she says. “I give a great deal of credit for that to the Aquamotion class.”

A Big Pool of Benefits for Your Health

Numerous studies tell us that exercising in water can offer a wealth of physical benefits, including pain relief, increased relaxation, improved bone density—particularly in post-menopausal women—as well as improved pulmonary function and blood pressure, greater muscular strength, increased stamina, improved range of motion, and better circulation. Japanese researchers found that women age 60 to 75 who participated in regular aquatic exercise for 12 weeks demonstrated more strength, flexibility, and agility, and had better total cholesterol levels, than a control group.

Aquatic exercise is especially beneficial for those who can’t work out as they once did, from arthritic former runners and hikers to those recovering from surgery. Low-impact exercises in the water are easy on joints and don’t require a great deal of balance or flexibility. Those with arthritis or other conditions that can be painful with movement will find that moving in water is easier. In fact, studies have shown that simply being in water is good for swollen joints; the sheer weight of the water provides natural compression on joints and helps reduce swelling. 

Research has also shown that exercising in water is a natural mood-booster, enhancing self-esteem while reducing stress, anxiety, and depression.

All of the above seem like great reasons for older adults, those with joint pain, and everyone else to give aquatic exercise a try. 

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