Water exercise is typically labeled as exercise for seniors or people who can swim really well. Not so fast my friend. That’s like saying soccer is only for countries like Europe or South America (ok, maybe that isn’t the best example to defend my argument). I am a huge fan of swimming. Some people may even say that is an understatement. I commonly hear people ask if water exercise and swimming are as good as exercising on land. I can barely keep a straight face while writing this. The simple answer is yes, more than you can imagine.

Swimming is a great way to exercise, but can also be frustrating at the same time. The reason for the frustration is because of how difficult swimming can be. Swimming brings more muscles into play with exact coordination than most other sports or exercise programs. On the other hand, its high repetition of movement makes it extremely beneficial to the cardiovascular system. Keep in mind that there is a right and a wrong way to swim. If your form isn’t up to par you will quickly realize your workout may end a little sooner than expected. As with any cardio workout, duration is very important. If you cannot keep your heart rate at its optimal level for at least 10 minutes at a time, then your results will not be all that you have in mind. So swimming with correct form is very important if you want to achieve total overall satisfaction.

Unlike traditional workouts, you can’t really feel yourself sweat in the water. If you ask me I don’t really miss it either. For some people sweating is the gauge they use for how their workout. Sweating isn’t exactly a great way to monitor your workout anyways. The great thing is technology has come a long way over the years to where you can now track your heart rate with a watch if you don’t want to do it the old fashioned way.

And then there are pool temperatures. There is a reason why pool temperatures are what they are. A pool for lap swim or water aerobics is typically around 80° to 85°. The water shouldn’t feel like bath water if you are going to exercise. Your body will get warm enough without any help from the water. Therapeutic pools are generally warmer and used for rehab purposes, not lap swimming or high intensity aerobics. In general, if the water feels a bit cool when you first get in, then the temperature is probably perfect. Once you get moving the water will then feel even better.

The reason water exercise works so well for a large majority of people is because the therapeutic and physical results. Water supports 90% of a person’s body weight, which allows the person to perform high intensity workouts with minimal impact on joints. If you want to save your knees, or rehab them after surgery, try the water. Don’t get me wrong, walking or running on land is great, but have you ever tried walking or running in the water? Sure you go a little slower, but keep in mind you have some resistance that you are pushing against.

There are also a number of other benefits resulting from exercise in the water. As I mentioned before, the common misconception about water exercise is that it is for only a select population and the results are nowhere near that of normal land exercises. Research has shown that water exercise is great for increasing strength, flexibility, energy, range of motion, muscle tone, oxygen/circulation, endurance, balance, coordination, and, self-esteem. Amazing isn’t it.

Whether you need to change up your exercise program or start fresh, exercising in the water is one option you should consider. Grab your suit and jump in. The water feels great.

Aaron Fabel, B.A in exercise science and wellness, is the CEO at the Oahe Family YMCA. He can be reached by email at ajfabel@oaheymca.org

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