Although plenty of people think keeping in shape is important, certain forms of exercise aren’t appropriate for everyone. For individuals with injuries or conditions that make working out difficult, low impact exercises may be the best (or only) option. One way to achieve this is through exercising in a pool.
Laura Williams, founder of GirlsGoneSporty.com, said low impact exercises don’t place undue strain on joints and bones. While water exercise is a common form of it, other popular methods include cycling, walking, and yoga.
Benefits of Pool Exercise
Williams, a former pool manager with a master’s degree in exercise and sport science, said anyone who suffers from bone or joint disorders, arthritis, osteoporosis, and obesity would benefit greatly from low-impact pool exercise. Pregnant women also are good candidates for it.
One unique benefit of aquatic exercise is that it’s non weight-bearing, which means a person isn’t forced to carry their entire weight during exercise, she said. In addition, water reduces the pull of gravity of the body and thus helps to improve flexibility.
“The resistance of the water surrounds you, so every direction you move, every move you make, you’re working against the water’s resistance,” she said. “This makes it an excellent modality for increasing strength.”
While water exercise is appropriate for almost everyone, she said injuries still are possible. If an exercise causes pain, stop doing it immediately and try something else.
Comments from an Instructor
Julia Cranford, a certified water aerobics instructor, teaches all levels of water classes at Fitness Lady Health Clubs for Women in the Jackson, Mississippi, area. They offer classes appropriate for all people, including senior citizens and those with arthritis and fibromyalgia. Some of the classes offered are Aqua Zumba, Aqua Pilates, and water ballet.
Cranford said their gym does not require swim suits, so class attendees are able to wear shorts and t-shirts if they wish. The classes are held with people standing in midriff-level water.
The occasional nervousness Cranford sees is from people who don’t know how to swim. In that case, the individuals are able to walk up and down the side of the pool holding onto a bar so they can get more comfortable with the water.
All the instructors where Cranford teaches are required to have at least one certification from a nationally recognized organization, she said. She is certified by IFTA and the Arthritis Foundation. In the certification classes, participants learn safety, body mechanics, and precautions for people with medical issues.
Dr. Doug Graham, author of The 80/10/10 Diet, offers four exercises pool-goers can enjoy. Please consult a doctor before trying any of these exercises if you have any concerns.
In his own words:
1. Splash: One of the all-time favorite exercises of both young and old is to push surface water with sufficient speed that it makes a huge splash. To push water forward 50 or more times at maximum speed, in an effort to throw as much water as possible, is somehow very rewarding and equally as tiring. This exercise is good for your reflexes and muscular endurance, and is superb for stress release.
2. Clap: Stand in neck-deep water, or spread or bend your legs so that the water is up to your neck. With straight arms held out to the sides, (or bent for beginners) bring your hands together as rapidly as possible. Position hands so as to create the desired resistance, holding them an inch under the surface of the water and creating zero splash. Return arms to the start position as rapidly as possible, again utilizing straight arms and positioning the hands to create water resistance. The faster the movement, the greater the resistance. Excellent for shoulders, chest, and back.
3. Press: With straight arms, support weight on the edge of the pool, feet in the water, toes touching the wall of the pool. Push downward, raising the tummy and rear as far as it they will go. The toes will rise. If you get your knees out of water, you are doing fairly well. Ease your weight back to the starting position. Repeat 5-10 times. Requires triceps, trapezius, and core strength.
4. Swing: Stand on one leg, in water deeper than your waist, and swing the other leg without bending at the knee. Front and back, side to side, in big circles, and even diagonally will all prove valuable for the muscles around the entire thigh, glute, and hip regions.
Williams said almost anything, including water exercise tutorials, can be found on YouTube. One organization she recommends for videos is Howcast.
When it comes time to find a pool class, Williams says to avoid any pools that do not require instructor certification. If the instructors are trained, they should be training with someone who is certified.
In addition, she suggests searching these organizations for more information: