With the summer here, you may be spending more time at the beach, pool or lake. Are there benefits to working out in the water and can you get a great water workout? Yes you can, and here are 8 reasons why.
1. Less impact. With so many of the exercises we do from day to day, there’s constant and continual pounding on our muscles and joints. Take running for example. It’s the same movement, along with the same pounding on your knees and joints. The repetitive movements often lead to overuse injuries, where too much use of the same muscle, joint or tendon gets irritated, inflamed or damaged. In water, hitting the hard pavement with the same amount of force is eliminated because we’re buoyant in water. In fact, about 90% of our body weight is buoyant in the water so this is especially helpful if excess weight is putting too much pressure on your knees and back. It’s for this reason that the Arthritis Foundation recommends water fitness because your joints are protected from stress and strain.
2. Resistance. If you’ve ever used a resistance band, you’ll notice that the movement works in both directions, as you lift and as you lower, as you extend and as you contract the muscle. It’s that resistance that helps build muscle, tone and sculpt. Moving against the resistance of the water, whether you’re working your upper body, lower body, core or everything at once, offers a similar experience and can build muscle in a fun and different way.
3. Therapeutic and fun. Water is naturally calming. Think about how you feel when you sink into a warm bath. Getting into the water for your workout can offer those same benefits. It’s also fun and something you can do in a class, socially or with your kids. Especially with childhood obesity being an issue for so many children today, keeping your kids busy while having fun in the water lays the groundwork for healthy fitness habits that will hopefully last a lifetime.
4. Stress relief. When we’re stressed, we look for relief. If we’re not careful, we’ll look towards overeating, over-drinking, overspending, smoking, or some other type of reckless behavior. Getting into the water can be a healthy stress-relieving activity. Try it the next time you’re stressed and see for yourself.
5. Prevents overheating. Whether you’re sensitive to overheating, pregnant or simply don’t enjoy getting sweaty, the cooling effect of the water as you’re doing your water workout prevents overheating. You may even do much more than you planned because staying cool kept you engaged for longer.
6. Builds endurance as well as muscle mass. Endurance: Endurance has to do with strengthening our heart and lungs. One study conducted over 12 weeks took a look at sedentary middle-aged men and women. The study found that the ability to intake oxygen improved 10% and the amount of blood pumped with each beat (an indicator of heart strength) improved as much as 18%. Muscle mass: Another study was conducted where a group of men completed an 8-week swimming program. The study found that there was a 23.8% increase in the triceps muscle (the back of the arm).
With improved endurance and strength, water workouts can help improve balance and build cardiovascular strength. Remember, the heart is a muscle. Strengthening it is important for a lifetime of good health.
7. A great rehabilitation activity. The resistance from the water still makes a workout challenging yet the water takes the pressure off of the joints and muscles, giving them an opportunity to heal as other muscles are being worked.
8. Something you can do for life. Because there’s no impact with swimming, it can be continued for a lifetime. The United States Masters Swimming site, which is a site for swimmers and various competitions, has a 100- to 104-year-old age group. I can’t think of any other sports or activities have participants within those age ranges. For example, Jack LaLanne, the grandfather of fitness who passed in 2011, reportedly still swam 1 hour every day at age 93.
So what can you do?
Options include anything and everything from water walking to water aerobics to water running to water strength and toning exercises using fitness equipment specifically designed for the water. Even if swimming doesn’t become your only form of exercise, taking advantage of the summer to explore the possibilities of water workouts may just be the change in your fitness routine you needed to keep your workouts consistent and fun.
Of course, check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.
Photo from here, with thanks.