Swimming isn’t the only pool exercise that tones your whole body
Before you begin drowning in your workout goals and seeing those New Year’s resolutions sink lower on your priority list, dive into a swimming pool and start enjoying the benefits of aqua fitness, also known as water aerobics. Think of combining exercise and water, and the first thing that comes to mind is swimming, but there’s much more to aqua fitness than the butterfly and breaststroke.
First, to clear up a few misconceptions: water aerobics isn’t a less efficient way of training, it’s not only for seniors, and you don’t have to know how to swim to practice it. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), studies have shown both physical and mental health benefits—from increasing flexibility and having low joint impact, to relieving stress and depression. Further, age doesn’t matter; everyone can benefit from aqua fitness.
Here’s how to get in shape with a splash, whether in your backyard pool or in aqua fitness classes in Southwest Florida.
INCREASED MOBILITY AND STRENGTH
Water density is 800 times more than air density, so each movement performed in water requires more energy than it does on land. More energy means the body is required to make a larger effort to complete a task, increasing mobility, strength and blood flow to the muscles. This is especially important with aging when a gradual decrease in muscle mass, strength and power occurs. A study published in the Journal of Sports
Science and Medicine found that water exercise could help older women, who may have chronic or age-related conditions, to stay active and maintain mobility.
LOW IMPACT ON JOINTS
In water, gravity decreases and the body’s weight drops by 90 percent, according to research. That buoyant effect relieves pressure on the joints and muscles, and water provides a cushion during exercise. Hence, it’s one of the best therapies for those with joint problems, arthritis, obesity or osteoporosis (a bone disease marked by fragile bones and decreased bone density and strength).
The “runner’s high,” that euphoric feeling runners say they experience when training, is not a myth. In fact, all types of physical activity can create that happy, empowered response. During exercise, the body releases endorphins, the feel-good chemicals that act as natural painkillers in the brain, leaving you positive and energized. In addition, the stress hormone cortisol decreases,
leading to deeper and better-quality sleep. A recent study looked at how pregnant women responded to water exercise and found that their sleep patterns improved, “both subjectively and in terms of latency, duration and efficiency.”
DECREASED BLOOD PRESSURE
One in three American adults have hypertension (high blood pressure), which may cause heart disease and stroke, according to the CDC. Only half of them have the condition under control. The normal range recommended by the American Heart Association is below 120/80.
Water exercise is one of the best ways to keep blood pressure at an optimal range. Scientists have found that a 10week course of water aerobics effectively reduced blood pressure in patients with hypertension. The constant and even water pressure allows for the blood to circulate more effectively throughout the body, allowing for a steadier heart rate and decreased blood pressure.
EFFICIENT CALORIE BURNER
Although people burn calories by simply going about their daily lives, that unfortunately isn’t enough to improve the main components of physical fitness: cardiovascular health and endurance, strength and flexibility, and healthy body composition (the body’s fat and lean muscle ratio). To do so, you need exercise that increases your heart rate and blood flow throughout your body. While water aerobics minimizes impact on joints and muscles, the water’s density allows for resistance, providing an efficient full-body workout.
PERFECT IN HOT WEATHER
If there’s one possible threat of exercising outdoors in the hot climate of Southwest Florida, it’s overheating. Exercising in water, however, means your body temperature won’t rise significantly. You can stay cool while activating your muscles and toning your body head to toe.