Head of the Kinesiology Department at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Wojtek Chodzki-Zajko, PhD, spoke with WebMD about the benefits of water exercises, stating: “It’s clear that aqua aerobics or water-based activities provide significant benefits for older adults, including increasing metabolism.” The Arthritis Foundation reports that senior citizens can help beat joint pain by moving their walks to the pool.
Benefits of water exercises include increased buoyancy, which can reduce the stress on joints and thus ease pain and increase mobility. A heated pool can especially help relax muscles and sooth pain, which can also help increase range of motion while working out. Exercising in water can also help improve balance.
With 12x the resistance of air in the pool, it’s also a great workout as it builds and strengthens muscles. This resistance will help burn calories and provide an aerobic workout that’s great for the heart. AARP reports that water’s hydrostatic pressure “pushes” against the chest and body, which lowers your heart rate and helps blood circulate “more efficiently.”
What exercises are recommended?
Speak with your physician before starting any new workout plan. Also, look for local classes through The Arthritis Foundation, your local YMA, or community pool, and AARP.
Some fun “watercizes” that you might consider, as allowed by your doctor, include:
Walk from one side of the pool to the other. Just as you’d walk or speed walk around your neighborhood, experience walking through the water. If you incorporate weights into your normal walking routine, you may want to consider walking with pool-friendly weights.
Like water walking, this is a great exercise in the pool. By increasing the intensity from walking, jogging from one end of the pool to the other can ensure you get a fun aerobic workout that’s low-impact.
From standing pushups along the edge of the pool (to build arm, chest and shoulder strength without overly stressing joints), to weight lifting with water dumbbells and ankle cuffs, you can build and strengthen muscle in the pool. Arm curls and leg lifts with weights use the resistance of the water to challenge you while reducing pain on joints.
Dance and aerobics classes in water are popular options at local pools and fitness centers. Some gyms are even beginning to offer classes such as Aqua Zumba®, which provides low-impact but high-energy exercise.
Flutter Kicks and Laps
With a kickboard, flutter kick your legs, creating a steady rhythm that gets your heart pumping. Travel back and forth across the pool. You can also hold onto the side of the pool for stationary flutter kicks. Swimming laps back and forth can be a great full-body workout. If you haven’t tried swimming laps before (or have not done so in some time), begin slowly and increase the number of laps.
Scheduling a low-impact workout in the pool a few times a week is a great way to enjoy exercise classes, either with friends or alone. You’ll begin to see and feel the health benefits quickly as you enjoy the comfort of the pool.