According to Kathy Stevens of WebMD:
“To appreciate why water training works so well, you need to understand water’s unique properties “.In water, you have almost no gravity. You’re relieved of 90 percent of your body weight, so you become buoyant. This frees you to move in new ways.
You can float, bob and relax without feeling like you’re putting out an effort. Yet water provides 12 to 14 percent more resistance than air, so moving through it is like having weights all around your body.”
Dr. Martin Juneau, director of prevention at the Montreal Heart Institute states
“You pump more blood for each beat, so you don’t need as many heartbeats, because the pressure of the water on your legs and lower body makes the blood return more effectively to the heart. That’s interesting data that hasn’t been studied thoroughly before.”
Why You Should Take Your Workout to the Pool
The truth is, almost everyone can benefit with water exercise. Here are several reasons you should take your workout to the pool.
1. It Builds Strength
While it might be abundantly obvious that water is thicker than air, many people do not stop to think about what that means when it comes to fitness. Essentially, every direction you move – every stroke, kick, twist, and turn – requires you to move against the water’s resistance.
To swim or to jog a mile in the water, takes much longer than walking or jogging a mile on land. This is because swimming a mile is much more difficult due to the constant resistance the water provides. As you work against the resistance, your muscles develop and grow stronger, especially when you are pushing yourself to improve.
2. It is Easy on the Joints
Swimming and other aquatic exercises are incredibly easy on the joints. These low- to no-impact, non-weight-bearing activities make it possible for those who have arthritis, or those recovering from injury, are overweight, pregnant, experiencing chronic joint pain to comfortably move in the pool. It is these same factors that make aquatic exercise accessible to populations who might not be able to ride a bike, go for a jog, or lift weights.
And because swimming involves very little joint strain, it also carries a low risk of injury. While you might roll an ankle on a walk or pull a muscle during Cross Fit, you are unlikely to experience sports-related injuries when going for a swim – especially if you are engaging in swimming for fitness, rather than pursuing it as a competitive sport.
3. Improves Flexibility
Flexibility is one of the five components of fitness, and it is one that is often ignored. The thing about flexibility is that it becomes especially important as you age. This is because poor flexibility can limit range of motion and mobility, reducing balance and coordination, which can ultimately contribute to falls. Water exercise is an easy and effective way to enhance flexibility because of the unique environment that water provides.
The buoyancy provided by water enables you to move in ways you might not be able to move on land. For instance, you might be able to perform a flip turn in the water, but few adults can actually perform a similar flip on land. Likewise, you can move into stretches – either standing in the shallow end, or suspended in the water while using a tool (such as a pool noodle) – that you might not be able to master on land. This makes it possible for even those with stiff muscles and joints to slowly improve their flexibility and regain full range of motion.
Just keep in mind that warmer water is better for enhancing flexibility because it helps to keep muscles pliable. Look for warm-water pools to maximize your experience.
4. It Burns Calories
Water exercise is actually a calorie-torching activity.
The real beauty of aquatic exercise is that even though it burns calories at a rate similar to that of other aerobic activities, it often feels easier. This is due in part to the naturally cooling effect of water – you simply do not feel as hot and sweaty as you do on land – and the fact that water exercise tends to be enjoyable. It is easy to overlook how hard you are working when you are having a good time.
5. It is Heart-Healthy
Swimming laps, water jogging, and water exercise are all aerobic activities. That means they get your heart pumping and your vascular system working in order to pump oxygenated blood to your working muscles. And anytime you perform sustained exercise lasting longer than 10 minutes, you are engaging your cardiovascular system in a manner that can improve heart health.
Just be sure to get clearance from your doctor to engage in any type of exercise program, especially if you have known cardiovascular disease or risk factors, such as family history, high blood pressure, or type II diabetes.
Lynne O’Keeffe is a physiotherapist at Auckland Rehabilitation Spinal Unit.
Laura Williams – masters’ degree in sports science
C & P Health Centre