Aquatic Exercises for Seniors

Water exercise provides a comfortable workout for seniors.
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At most area aquatic centers, you will find a group of seniors walking, talking and swimming their way to fitness. Not only is the pool a social gathering place, but also water exercise provides a low-impact training option for seniors. According to the Aquatic Exercise Association, the pool provides a fitness environment regardless of age or ability levels. The ability to swim is not required, which is another positive that attracts the aging population to water exercise.

Water Benefits

The low-impact nature of aquatic exercise is created through the water's buoyancy. Buoyancy reduces the effect of gravity on the body. When you exercise in water up to your chest, you carry only 25 to 35 percent of your body's weight. This reduces stress on joint such as the knees and hips, which may become aggravated by arthritis as you age. The Arthritis Foundation encourages water exercise for those experiencing pain because of the increased joint range of motion in the water. Other benefits of aquatic exercise include: improving the cardiovascular system, as water exercise elevates the heart rate to enhance fitness; increasing muscle strength, as the water provides resistance to all the working muscles; and improving balance, as the body remains upright in a changing environment.

Workout Guidelines

The pool temperature will affect your workout. The Arthritis Foundation recommends a temperature between 83 and 88 degrees Fahrenheit. Your joint pain might flare up if the water is too cold, and you might overheat if the pool water is too hot. Before you begin your workout routine, a five- to 10-minute dynamic warm-up will stretch the legs and prepare your body. Examples of a dynamic stretch include a front-to-back or side-to-side, single-leg swing, a toe raise where you lift and lower your heels and a an ankle stretch in which you lift one knee toward your chest and then point and flex your foot. Save your static stretches for the end of your workout. These include a stretch for the backs of your legs by placing one foot on the wall and leaning forward. Or, placing your toes on the lower part of the wall with your heels on the floor and standing tall to stretch the backs of your lower legs. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds.

Endurance Training

After your warm-up and with your doctor's permission to exercise, begin your cardiovascular endurance training. Movements in the water performed at a brisk pace will elevate your heart and breathing rates, which lead to improved cardiovascular health. Select exercises such as walking, jogging, kicking, lifting knees, dancing the twist or hopping. In the shallow end, place your feet flat on the ground and keep your back straight throughout the exercises. If you prefer to exercise without any impact, straddle a pool noodle and perform the exercises in the deep end. Your endurance training lasts for 30 to 40 minutes. For the final five minutes, slow down your movements and include giant steps forward and sideways to cool down.

Strength Training

Follow your endurance training with resistance exercises to improve your muscle tone. Many pools have water dumbbells for exercises such as arm curls, arm raises to the sides and front, and chest fly exercises in which your straight arms move back and forth from the front to your sides. A pool noodle is used for core exercises. For example, place the noodle across your upper back and lie face up. Bend your knees toward your chest to strengthen your abdominals. The sides and steps of the pool also provide a place to strength train. Perform pushups on stairs or calf raises by hanging your heels off a step and then rising up onto your toes. Aim to complete eight to 10 repetitions of each exercise. Maintain normal breathing as you work out.

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