Working out in the water -- it's not just for your grandmother anymore. That old and not particularly accurate image of elderly people splashing it up has given way to fitness buffs of all ages using the pool to achieve high levels of strength and conditioning. The 21st-century definition of water aerobics -- known as aquafit -- is a "fitness class in a pool," says Swimming.org, and everyone from people with chronic health conditions to those rehabbing an injury to professional athletes looking for a rigorous cross-training activity are diving in.
As the Extreme Fitness website explains, aquafit classes offer similar benefits to aerobic exercise on land. You can walk or run or exercise in the water to reduce blood pressure, elevate your pulse rate, strengthen your heart and reduce weight. The natural resistance of the water enables you to do strength work and build muscle. The buoyancy of the water reduces the stress on your joints, especially your spine, knees and hips, allowing you to increase your flexibility and range of motion while lessening the risk of injury. Plus, exercising in a pool is a refreshing change of pace.
Basic Pool Exercises
MayoClinic.com offers a variety of water exercises that could be part of any aquafit class. For example, you can water walk in waist-high water using handwebs, which increase resistance. Swing your arms are you would do on land and reap the added benefit of toned arms from your aerobic workout. You also can walk or jog in deeper water, which creates more resistance and makes you work harder. Other aquafit exercises involve foam barbells. In waist-deep water, hold barbells at your side with arms bent, palms up and elbows close to your body. Push the barbells down into the water until your arms straighten. Repeat 12 to 15 times or until fatigued.
Deep-Water Aquafit Exercises
A workout in shoulder high water supports about 90 percent of your body weight and takes almost all of the pressure off your joints, allowing greater freedom of movement and an extended range of motion. The water also provides resistance from multiple directions, which enables you to easily work opposing sets of muscle groups. The workout routine recommended at Alive.com includes a knee-to-chest exercise holding the side of the pool with your arms outstretched, front back and up down pulls, using the water as resistance as you drag your arms up and down or side to side, and wide-knee running, lifting the right knee to the right hand and the left knee to the left hand.
Aquafit exercises include movements that both stretch and relax the body. These types of exercises can be done before or after a normal aquatfit workout, in the same way stretching on land is used for a warm-up or cool-down. Dynamic stretches at the start of a workout include jumping jacks or water walking. Static stretches, such as a knee-to-chest stretch, at the end of a workout should be held for about eight seconds, according to the Canadian Aquafitness Leaders Alliance website.
Jim Thomas has been a freelance writer since 1978. He wrote a book about professional golfers and has written magazine articles about sports, politics, legal issues, travel and business for national and Northwest publications. He received a Juris Doctor from Duke Law School and a Bachelor of Science in political science from Whitman College.