The world of water fitness: Some people still believe that “aqua aerobics” is for older women who don’t want much of a workout. The fact is that water provides resistance to body movement, support of body weight and a wonderful freshness that combines for workouts as hard or as easy as the participant desires. Water fitness includes cardiovascular conditioning, strength training and flexibility. You don’t have to know how to swim to take a water fitness class.
The environment of water is less stressful on both body and mind. The moves are practically non-impact. The pace is slower, which produces a more playful atmosphere. The participants feel free to smile, laugh and have a good time while training their bodies.
There are many forms of water fitness classes: Water walking, water jogging, choreographed aerobics, toning, deep water conditioning. Personal trainers are beginning to workout some of their clients in the pool. Injury rehabilitation for both the general population and athletes is common. Many athletes believe they recover and train better in the water. Even Mind/Body workouts are being conducted in water, including some massage techniques.
A very important point about water fitness is that it is a totally different discipline than land exercise. Land exercise is based on gravity and water fitness is based on buoyancy. Water provides 12 times more resistance than air. Water displaces 90% of the body’s weight.
When doing land exercise, monitoring the heart rate with the pulse is important. In the water, oxygen consumption is the important factor. Oxygen consumption is the process that burns fat and calories. Heart rates are 13-15% lower in the water than on land due to heat, gravity, compression, water pressure and what is called the dive reflex. Studies have shown that despite lower heart rates, water fitness provides fine improvements in cardiovascular fitness and fat loss.
The Laws of Motion are different in water and an understanding of them is necessary for effective workouts. The Law of Inertia states that a body in motion tends to stay in motion; a body at rest tends to stay at rest UNTIL acted on by an outside force. Changing the direction of the movements frequently is difficult in the water and provides resistance. Breaking inertia uses a lot of energy.
The Law of Acceleration states that the speed of the moving body is proportional to its mass and the force applied to it. In the water the exercisers push off the pool bottom with their feet and use forceful, controlled arm movements. You don’t need fast movements in the water.
The Law of Action/Reaction states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. In water the hands move opposite the direction of the intended foot motion.
The Law of Leverage means it is more work to raise an extended limb than a bent one. For an effective workout, exercisers can pull their straight arms and legs through the water continuously, like long levers. For maximum resistance, they use cupped hands with the fingers slightly apart, since large flat surfaces will intensify the workload.
Properly applying these principles makes water fitness possible. Muscle toning becomes very safe and effective. Muscles work in synchronized pairs; one primary mover and one opposing muscle. Water allows efficient training of both muscles in the pairs. Buoyancy cushions impact moves and helps prevent the strain, injury and reinjury of muscles. In water, abdominal and back muscles are contracting isometrically and continuously for much of the workout to maintain proper body position and alignment. The whole body tones with ease.
An element that helps make water fitness so much fun and effective is the equipment that can be used for flotation and resistance. Buoyancy belts and kickboards keep exercisers afloat in deeper water. Styrofoam dumbbells, hand paddles, beach balls and the Water Woggle (a long thin styrofoam tube) are some of the resistance “toys.” Even aerobic steps are available for water workouts.
After reading how much fun water fitness is I hope you find an opportunity to try it. Exercisers benefit when they learn a variety of workout activities and add new dimensions to their programs.
TIPS FOR WATER FITNESS by Pat Gill
- As with any excercise, consult a physician first when possible and definitely when there are risk factors involved such as heart disease, diabetes, recent surgeries, etc.
- Proper depth is chest high or slightly below. Any deeper can cause more buoyancy and loss of balance and form and any lower causes more impact on the joints.
- Land in as natural a foot position as possible, not on toes, which is very common in water aerobics. This over stresses the calf muscles.
- Form is very important. You can stress a joint or the back when form is lost due to the added resistance of the water (12 times more resistance than air).
- Abdominal muscles should always be tight. Think of the pulling in technique “navel to spine”. This activates the transverse abdominal muscle and helps to hold in the ‘gut’.
- Due to the low impact on the joints (only 10-25% of body weight when chest high or slightly below) water aerobics can be done almost everyday. As with any exercise, we should always have a designated day of rest to allow our bodies time off.
- Hot spas can be helpful with tight sore muscles, however they should be avoided after workouts until the individual has sufficiently cooled down. They will keep the core body temperature raised and can be harmful to those with high blood pressure. Pregnant women should not use dry saunas of hot spas as this will also elevate the core body temperature and can do damage to the baby.