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No matter what your current exercise level, it’s likely there’s an aquatic exercise program for you. Exercising in a pool is easy on the joints and body tissues and suits a whole range of abilities and needs. Pool exercises are an especially good choice for:
- The elderly
- People who are obese
- Those with orthopedic disorders (problems with muscles, ligaments, or joints)
- Anyone rehabbing from a soft-tissue injury
Pool Exercises: Muscle Toning Without Joint Stress
During land-based exercises like jogging and during aerobic exercises that involve jumping around, the weight of your body repeatedly striking the ground is hard on your joints. Over time, it can lead to joint or tissue injury.
When you’re in water, on the other hand, your body weight is reduced by up to 90 percent due to buoyancy, so all that weight is taken off your joints even when you run or jump.
But being buoyant doesn’t mean you aren’t working hard. Water is 800 times as dense as air, so it provides plenty of resistance, allowing for high levels of energy expenditure with low levels of strain on the body. In fact, studies of deep-water running have shown that jogging or running in waist-deep water can get your heart rate up even more than running on land.
Best Types of Pool Exercises
While swimming is probably the first thing to come to mind when most people think of pool exercises, there are many different kinds of aquatic workout programs. Most are performed while you’re standing in waist- to chest-deep water (shallow water) or while you’re floating (deep water), usually with flotation equipment.
The Aquatic Exercise Association (AEA) promotes everything from cardio programs geared to every fitness level to dancing and water walking to high-intensity training and deep-water running. Plus there are pool exercises that focus on abdominal and core muscles, special programs geared to those with arthritis, and even tai chi and yoga moves done in warm water.
A 2017 study looked at the effects of aquatic exercise on body composition and walking speed in post-menopausal women with mild knee osteoarthritis. The results showed that four months of high-intensity aquatic resistance training led to weight loss and improved walking speed. Most of the women gained the weight back after the program ended, but the improvement in walking speed was still there at the 12-month follow-up.
The AEA recommends that all individuals obtain physician approval prior to initiating exercise or when significantly altering an existing exercise program.
By Judith Thalheimer