Water-WorkoutsMost of us think of swimming laps when we hear about hitting the pool for exercise. But even good swimmers can grow bored staring at the bottom of the pool. And laps are out of the question for people who aren’t comfortable putting their head under water.

The good news is that exercise options in the pool aren’t limited to lap swimming, and now nonswimmers can hit the pool to burn calories, build strength, and get help for arthritis and fibromyalgia. Mind-body exercises such as yoga, tai chi, and Pilates have even jumped into the pool recently.

Because exercising in water removes the impact involved when similar movements are performed on land, it’s commonly used for rehabilitating injuries. Exercise in warm-water therapy pools provides the added benefit of heat therapy for injuries or conditions such as arthritis and fibromyalgia that cause
muscular aches and joint stiffness.

Pools dedicated to therapy are generally found in physical therapy facilities, but since the Arthritis Foundation has recommended warm water exercise for the relief of pain and stiffness and to relax muscles and cushion joints, some gyms now offer separate warm-water pools for their growing older adult
member populations.

You don’t have to have a medical condition to benefit from water exercise. All exercisers—from beginners to competitive athletes—can improve fitness and performance by taking their workouts to the water.

And with the exception of swimming, all of the following water exercises that follow can be performed with the head above water:
  • Aqua yoga: Yoga poses are performed in shallow (chest or shoulder deep) water by using the water to support the body. Water noodles may be used as props for poses performed as you float. BENEFITS: strength, flexibility, balance.
  • Aqua tai chi: Tai chi sequences are performed in shallow water. The resistance of water against the hands adds a strengthening component. Water supports the body, assisting those who may have balance limitations on land. BENEFITS: strength, balance, mild cardiovascular.
  • Aqua Pilates: Pilates exercises are adapted to use the water for resistance and support to work the core muscles. You may use the pool walls, water noodles, and other flotation equipment to perform exercises while floating on your back.
  • Aqua Zumba: Zumba enthusiasts can now dance off the pounds in the pool. Dance-based Zumba moves are adapted for shallow-water routines performed to motivating music. Aqua Zumba may appeal to those who are self-conscious dancing in a mirrored studio as well as to those who enjoy water exercise in general. BENEFIT: cardiovascular.
  • Aqua aerobics: Traditional aerobic dance and athletic movements can be performed to music in shallow water. Water noodles and aqua barbells may help increase resistance and workout intensity. BENEFITS: cardiovascular, strength.
  • Water walking: Shallow-water walking adds resistance and support for those who want to minimize impact or who do not enjoy swimming or water aerobics. BENEFIT: mild cardiovascular, strength.
  • Water jogging/running: Performed in deep water, usually with a flotation vest, water jogging (moderate intensity and leg pace) or running (higher intensity and faster leg pace) are popular with injured athletes and those who want to minimize the impact of land running. BENEFIT: moderate- to high-intensity cardiovascular.
  • Water resistance: All water exercise involves some degree of resistance simply due to movement against water. However, water resistance training specifically focuses on strength exercises and may involve the use of aqua barbells, underwater resistance bands, and hand paddles to increase theamount of resistance. BENEFIT: strength.
  • Swimming: The most traditional water exercise, swimming is appropriate for all people who are comfortable putting their head under water. Swimming workouts can be varied by doing interval training (alternating slow and fast laps), adding resistance using fins and hand paddles, and using a water-resistant mp3 player for musical motivation. BENEFIT: cardiovascular, strength, flexibility.