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 enormous amount of calories. Plus, it keeps the body cool during exercise, and is just plain fun. Research has shown that it’s a natural mood-booster, enhancing self-esteem while lowering anxiety and depression.
Everybody in the Pool!
At Splendido, an all-inclusive community in Tucson for those 55 and better, we offer a variety of fitness classes in our saltwater swimming pools, and participants take advantage of the water’s extra buoyancy to 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.
You can do the same with 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. I recommend taking a supervised class first to learn how to get the most benefit out of aquatic exercise for yourself; after that, if you have access to a swimming pool, you can work out on your own or with friends if you prefer. (Splendido residents tell me that the social aspect of our classes is a big draw too.)
Joint Pain? Just Add Water!
Having said that aquatic exercise is beneficial for everyone, I’ll add that it is ideal for those who can’t work out as they once did, from arthritic former runners and hikers to those recovering from surgery. When these folks get in the pool, the 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.
A Big Pool of Benefits for Your Health
If this hasn’t convinced you to try aquatic exercise, I’ll leave you with this: Research tells us that exercising in water can offer a wealth of physical benefits, including relief of pain, increased relaxation, improved bone density, improved pulmonary function, strengthened muscles, improved endurance, improved range of motion, and increased circulation. Those seem like great reasons for older adults, those with joint pain, and everyone else to give aquatic exercise a try. In other words, everyone in the pool.
Todd Lutz is a fitness instructor with the Get Fit! team at Splendido, an all-inclusive community in Tucson for those 55 and better. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in physical education and is a certified ACE personal trainer.