We all know that regular exercise is important for good health. We also know that it’s vital to find something you like or you won’t continue it. If you’re struggling with finding a program that works for you, needing to mix it up a little, or looking for a change, why not try my favorite activity?
You may think that this is something just for older people (yikes!) but there are different programs and types of classes for all ages and fitness levels. Water fitness (or water aerobics) programs and classes can help develop flexibility, muscular strength and endurance, and even deliver cardio-respiratory benefits. Other physical benefits include increased range of motion, improved balance and coordination, and a chance for some relaxation.
Exercising in water is different than land exercise. These differences create a great environment for a fitness program.
Resistance. Since the viscosity of water is greater than that of air, the resistance to movement is greater. Water provides 12 to 14 times more resistance than air during exercise. This resistance is also evenly distributed. As an added bonus, water works the opposing muscles too. Kickboards, water weights (or hand buoys), or water noodles are often used to create additional resistance for strength building.
Inertia. This is the force needed to move from a stopped position or to change direction. In water fitness, the inertia is against both the water and current. Once the momentum in one direction has been achieved, it takes additional energy to reverse the direction of motion.
Body Surface Area. The water itself creates drag as it moves against the body, which can add intensity to the workout. Moving through the water creates more drag. Equipment such as webbed gloves and paddles increase these drag forces of the water, which can help build fitness.
Thermal Regulation. Water maintains the core temperature and establishes a balance between metabolic heat production and heat loss. The water naturally cools the body down and therefore your core temperature tends to be lower and you don’t even realize you’re sweating.
Intensity. The intensity of a workout can be increased or decreased with speed. Also, moving/traveling or working in deeper water increases intensity.
Buoyancy. This is one of the major positive aspects of water fitness. In water, the body has buoyancy. This makes water fitness easier on joints and bones. Because of the buoyancy, participants can jump without the limitation of gravity and the fear of falling and getting hurt. Being submerged or partially-submerged gives more and enhanced range of motions and freedom of movement. All of this allows workouts to become less painful.
Water fitness is something you can do alone, with a friend, or in a class. On top of all these good things, the water can relax your body — enjoy that water massage! With water fitness, you’re sure to have fun!
By Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS, Professor Emeritus at The Ohio State University
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