Remember those summer days frolicking in the pool as a child? While splashing and jumping, you were burning calories faster than you could put them back into your body. You were engaging in water aerobics. Water aerobics has been around for decades but is becoming increasingly more popular in the fitness industry. With the right frame of mind and an encouraging class situation, water aerobics of today is a high-energy, calorie-burning explosion of fitness.
For many reasons, water exercise is a great starting point for the new exerciser and obese population. However, fitness enthusiasts who have been hitting step class or the elliptical trainer a few too many days straight can find a great workout in the water as well.
The physical properties of water afford a great starting point for a new or obese exerciser. While immersed chest-deep in water an individual becomes buoyant. Scientifically: The loss of weight of a submerged body equals the weight of the fluid displaced by the body. In non-scientific terms, the more space your body occupies, the lighter you will become in the water. This gives a new exerciser an opportunity to jump to new heights and an obese exerciser will be given the opportunity to move about freely without the restriction of added weight.
Also, hydrostatic pressure in the pool affects the body’s internal organs. The end-result of hydrostatic pressure in water exercise is that it offsets the tendency of blood to pool in the lower extremities. This pressure aids in venous return and reduces the burden of work for the heart. Concurrently, pool temperatures are typically kept at 82 degrees, which also cools the body, thereby allowing participants to gain maximum benefits without exhaustion from overheating.
The same physical properties that offer physical relief in the water, can also add intensity to a workout. The viscosity of water along with drag adds resistance to movement, offering muscle strength training while at the same time gaining the benefits of cardiovascular training. Unlike land exercise which works muscles in a single direction, strengthening muscles in the water is bi-directional. When moving through the range of motion of a joint, a water exerciser will gain strengthening benefits in dual directions, working front/back, medial/lateral, assuming there is no buoyant equipment being utilized. As well, while in the water, core musculature (i.e. abdominals, obliques, and low back) are constantly being challenged as the body cuts through the water.
The pool is a great place to work on plyometric training without giving the joints in the hips and knees the impact associated with the same land movements. As well, classes offered in the deep water can add an even greater level of range of motion as joints are free to move through their greatest ranges while suspended above the pool floor.
Consequently, once you are on the road to physical fitness (and get past the dread of donning a bathing suit) you will most likely find that water exercise isn’t for sissies. Heck, you may even find yourself enjoying the workout — so dive in and get wet!