Water-based exercise is the best low-impact exercise you can participate in, according to the American Council on Exercise. The intrinsic properties of water make it the perfect environment for aerobics exercises without the forceful impact on your joints. Whether you are recovering from an injury or just looking for a great way to shake up your exercise routine, grab your swimsuit and hit the shallow end of the pool.
Water creates a natural resistance as you move through it. Even walking in water requires more force and burns more calories than walking on land. To enhance the cardiovascular benefits, increase your pace to a brisk walk and pump your arms while holding water weights. You can also challenge your balance and increase strength in your legs by incorporating backward walking, marching, toe walking or heel walking into your water routine. Jogging or running in water is another great aerobic exercise. You can jog along the side of the pool or purchase a tether to attach yourself to the pool and literally run in place. Increasing the pace of jogging and pumping your arms with water weights will increase the benefits of the workout.
If you are looking for a good strength-training regimen, you can translate most land-based exercises to the water. Lunges, squats, calf raises and stepups are easy to incorporate in the water. Jumping drills will work the entire lower body and get your heart pumping. Add hand-held water weights for even greater strength benefits for the upper and lower body. Incorporating upper-body movements, such as a chest press with lunges and a biceps curl with squats, will provide a total-body workout. Pushups off the pool wall will work the arms and chest.
If you like a group setting or need a little guidance, try a water aerobics class. Most classes combine cardio, strength training and flexibility at a pace that keeps you moving and your heart rate pumping. The average 160-pound person will burn more than 300 calories in an hour-long water aerobics class. Check your local fitness centers or physical therapy clinics for available times. Many facilities are now offering Latin dance-themed, Pilates- and even yoga-based water exercises classes, so you are bound to find something that fits your needs.
Your health-care provider should clear you for any new exercise routine. If at any time while exercising you feel severe shortness of breath, dizziness or chest pain, stop and seek medical attention immediately. Target heart rates for water-based exercise are traditionally 17 beats per minute less than for land-based activities. If you attempt to maintain a target heart rate during your workout, make sure you adjust your target accordingly.