Water has several intrinsic properties that make it an exercise medium of choice for people of all ages. According to the American Council on Exercise, water workouts are the best low-impact exercise program available. If you're lucky enough to have a pool in your backyard, you can give your workout routine a well deserved makeover while saving money on a gym membership. Always check with your health care provider prior to starting any exercise program.
Benefits of Water Workouts
The buoyancy of water reduces the effects of gravity on the body, particularly on joints. Exercising in waist-deep water essentially decreases your body weight by 50 percent, while exercise in chest-deep water eliminates 90 percent of your body weight, decreasing the impact on your joints. This makes pool exercise ideal for individuals suffering from an injury or arthritic conditions. At the same time, water has a natural resistance compared to air, resulting in a greater strengthening component compared to performing the same exercises on land.
Deep Water Exercises
If you have the ability to immerse yourself chest deep and be free floating in the pool, you can quickly burn calories and improve your strength and endurance. A device to help you stay afloat, such as a beach ball, pool noodle or flotation vest, is helpful. Or you can perform many of these exercises simply holding onto the side of the pool for safety. Bicycle pumps, scissor kicks and jumping jack kicks in the deep end will condition your lower body. You can add ankle weights for greater resistance with hamstring curls and knee extension exercises for your thighs. To work your upper body, cup your hands to increase resistance and move your arms front to back and overhead or transition any land-based exercise to the water, such as standing flies, chest presses and biceps curls. Moving quickly and adding water weights or dumbbells will maximize your upper body workout.
Deep Water Running
Running in deep water is an effective endurance training exercise with added resistance from the water. Unlike running on land, running in water does not create the pounding impact on lower body joints. You can literally “run” across the pool or purchase a tether to attach yourself to the side of the pool, allowing you to run in place. Try running forward, backward and sideways.To sneak in an extra arm workout, cup your hands and over-exaggerate your upper body movements during running.
Shallow Water Exercises
Shallow water can be waist or chest-deep, but your feet will touch the bottom of the pool. The benefits of water apply only to those joints that are immersed, so in waist deep water, your arms are not getting the benefits of water based exercise. A great total body exercise is to start with a squat and as you return to standing, push your arms straight over your head into a press up. Lunges can also be combined with a chest press as you descend into the lunge position. Side kicks are great to pair with shoulder abduction. Stand on one leg, keeping your knee straight and raise your opposite leg out to the side. As you lower your leg to the starting position, raise both arms out to the side to shoulder height. Adding weights or using a resistance band will further increase the intensity of the upper body workout.