It’s rare to pass an open outdoor pool without hearing kids squealing and laughing. Unfortunately, adults often lose this delight in H2O; some avoiding it altogether unless it’s in a glass with ice cubes.
But other adults have reclaimed their enthusiasm about water, judging from the popularity of water-based exercise classes. They’re in high demand at park district pools, gyms and fitness centers in versions ranging from gentle to high energy.
Why the popularity? Exercising in water can benefit people at every level of fitness, from the elite athlete to people dealing with serious physical challenges. Three of the qualities of water — buoyancy, resistance and hydrostatic pressure — are the keys to its benefits.
Buoyancy results from the reduced pull of gravity in water. This means you’re only bearing about 50 percent of your body’s weight when you’re in waist-high water, 70 percent if the water is at chest level and 90 percent if the water is up to your neck, according to Alice Novotny, aquatic coordinator at Edward Health & Fitness Centers.
Buoyancy reduces pain and the risk of injury because the water cushions the weight-bearing joints and lessens stress on muscles, tendons and ligaments. That’s one of the reasons water is ideal for people with certain physical limitations who want to work on flexibility and range of motion.
This might apply to older people who haven’t exercised for a while, the seriously obese, people dealing with a chronic condition such as arthritis, or an athlete or anyone else recovering from an injury.
And all can benefit from another advantage of warm water — it helps our muscles and our minds relax.
Resistance helps build strength and stamina, and water provides a lot more resistance than air.
“Just moving in water builds core strength, and you control the level of resistance,” Novotny says. “The deeper the water, the faster you move, the greater the resistance.”
You also get two exercises in one when strength training in water. That’s because muscles, such as the biceps and triceps, typically work in pairs. On land you do separate exercises for each muscle because you encounter resistance when lifting the weight, but not when gravity does the work of returning it. But if you do an exercise in the water, such as a biceps curl with an open hand or a no-flotation device, you’ll face the water’s resistance in both directions.
Another favorable feature of water is hydrostatic pressure, which can help relieve swelling and inflammation. It also supports efficient heart functioning.
Women with lymphedema after breast cancer surgery have reported that pool time provides symptom relief, at least temporarily. And, Novotny says, a number of runners spend some time in the Edward lap pool after a long run to relieve inflammation.
If you’re one of those grown-ups who avoid the water, maybe it’s time to try a few laps or even a water exercise class. If you’d like to try a few water exercises on your own, check out the sidebar for tips. Why let the kids have all the fun?
Cindy Eggemeyer is the executive director of Edward Health and Fitness Centers, with locations in Naperville, on the campus of Edward Hospital, 801 S. Washington St., and in Woodridge, at 6600 S. Route 53. For more information, visit www.edward.org/fitness. Cindy can be reached at 630-646-7915 and email@example.com.Tags: fitness
Here are five water exercises to get you started. Remember: increase intensity gradually and have fun.
It’s a walk in the park: Standing tall, walk across or around your pool — first forward, then backward and then sideways. To up the intensity, repeat as a jog. This provides good aerobic exercise while working all sides of your core.
Jumping jacks plus: Stand in shoulder-deep water with arms at your sides. Lift both arms up to the water’s surface, and at the same time, extend both legs out to the side. Return to starting position. Pause and repeat. Another version: alternate arm raises and leg extensions.
Noodle knockdown: In chest-high water, hold a noodle in front of you with both hands, palms down. Push the noodle down in the water as far as you can and then control it on the way back up to the surface.
At the barre: Stand in shoulder-deep water, with hands resting on edge of pool. Extend your right leg out as far as you can to the side. Keep toes pointed and hips facing the side of the pool in front of you. Return. Repeat with left leg.
The biker move: Straddle a noodle as if you were riding a bike and pedal your legs. At the same time, extend your arms in front of you and pull the water toward your sides. Repeat this move as you travel around the pool.