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Water Training: More Than Swimming “Upstream” for Fitness
- A “Cushion” for Your Body— According to the United States Water Fitness Association, 90% of your body weight is buoyant when you’re in water up to your neck. This buoyancy decreases the impact on joints. This allows people to do exercises that may otherwise be difficult on land.
- Added Resistance— Water provides 12-14 times more resistance than when you exercise on land. Every move you make in water increases resistance for muscles, which is important for improving strength.
- Temperature Regulation— Exercising in water helps disperse body heat efficiently to prevent overheating. You don’t feel sweaty in the process, so water training is likely to be more comfortable than exercising on land.
- Building cardiovascular endurance
- Improving strength and flexibility
- Improving or maintaining body weight and composition
- Rehabilitating or preventing injury to muscles
- Increasing circulation
- Swimming laps
- Water aerobics
- Water walking
- Deep water running
- Water yoga and relaxation
- Water toning and strength training
- Water flexibility
- Therapy and rehabilitation for injuries, particularly in the lower extremeties
- Water volleyball
- Water tennis
- Water polo
- Water country-line dancing
- Water hip-hop
- Water funk
- Water Tai kwon do
- Water Tai chi
- Flotation belts
- Kick boards
- Resistance bands (theraband)
- Styrofoam dumbbells
- Old tennis rackets (that can get wet)
- Check with your healthcare provider or doctor before starting any exercise program.
- Shop around for a gym facility with a pool. Ask about group classes that may be available.
- As with any physical activity or exercise, prepare for the exercise by warming up for 5-10 minutes before increasing the intensity of the workout. Walk or swim slowly, stretching your muscles.
You may want to start with water walking, which is easy to do and can be done a few different ways, either forward, backward, or sideways:
- Normal steps
- Quick, short steps
- Long steps
- Step kicks
- Move your arms in a variety of ways
- Cool down by slowing down and using gentle movements that allow your heart rate to return to normal.
- As your fitness level improves, gradually increase the intensity of your workouts, the length of your workouts, and the number of times you work out per week.
- Abnormal heart action/rate
- Pain or pressure in the chest, throat, or down the arm
- Dizziness, lightheadedness, sudden loss of coordination, confusion, cold sweat, near fainting
- Persistent rapid heart action even after you stop exercising
- Flare-up of an arthritic condition
- Side stitch (cramp)
- Muscle fatigue or cramps
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention http://www.cdc.gov
United States Water Fitness Association, Inc. http://www.uswfa.com
Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology http://www.csep.ca
Healthy Canadians http://www.healthycanadians.gc.ca
Pöyhönen T, Sipilä S, Keskinen KL, et al. Effects of aquatic resistance training on neuromuscular performance in healthy women. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 2002:34:2103-2109.
Quinn, TJ, Sedory DR, Fisher BS. Physiological effects of deep water running following a land-based training program. Res Q Exerc Sport. 1994;65:386-389.
Takeshima N, Rogers ME, Watanabe E, et al. Water-based exercise improves health-related aspects of fitness in older women. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 2002;33:544-551.
Information regarding water exercise. United States Water Fitness Association, Inc. website. Available at: http://www.uswfa.com/information%5Fregarding%5Fwater%5Fexercise.asp. Accessed May 12, 2012.
- Reviewer: Brian Randall, MD
- Review Date: 05/2012