Sweating on the treadmill or cycling through a busy intersection on a hot day can be excellent ways to get cardiovascular exercise, but they're also exhausting. And for people with injuries or who are out of shape, they can be painful. But you don't have to give up on fitness just because you don't want to sweat or because you are in pain. Pool exercises are less stressful to tender joints and muscles and can still give you an outstanding workout, even if you don't feel the burn.
One of the easiest ways to get exercise in the pool is to swim in a way that feels comfortable and natural to you. Choose a stroke that you can easily do and do laps in the pool. If you'd prefer to avoid laps or are unsure of your swimming skills, treading water -- using both your hands and legs -- can give you a high-quality cardio workout and get your arms, legs and core working. To amp up the intensity of water treading, try moving your legs in wide clockwise circles, then switching to counterclockwise circles.
Water walking, just like walking around your block, will burn calories and increase your heart rate. But your joints won't have to deal with the hard impact of tough pavement. You'll also get a slightly more intense workout walking through the resistance of the water. Choose a shallow pool at first so that only your legs are immersed, then gradually increase the depth of the water in which you walk to increase the difficulty of the exercise.
Aquarobics classes are similar to aerobics classes. You'll do calisthenic exercises, might lift weights and will likely jump and step, but all in the water. Aquarobics are easier on your joints, and the motions can be easier because of the buoyancy of the water. Try enrolling in an aquarobics class or, if you're exercising in a backyard pool, simply select aerobics moves you're comfortable with -- such as stepping, leg lifts or arm swirls -- and do them in the water.
If you hate the drudgery of regular exercise, but dread the risk of injury associated with team sports, pool games can be an ideal option. Pool volleyball and badminton get your body moving and can help increase joint strength, while minimizing the joint impact of jumping and landing. Pool-based tag and hide and seek, basketball and even softball in the pool are also options if you have a large pool and a cooperative group.
- MayoClinic.com: Slide Show -- Aquatic Exercise How-To's
- Fantastic Water Workouts; MaryBeth Pappas Baun
- American Council on Exercise: Make a Splash With Water Fitness
- Fitness: Slim Down in a Splash -- Pool Workout
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.