You hate the treadmill. You hate weight training. You have joint issues. You hate to sweat. That bicycle seat is just too uncomfortable. I've heard them all. Here’s your solution: water fitness. You don’t have to know how to swim to participate in water fitness – just grab an open lane and have fun!
Water fitness (with the exception of swimming) is underestimated as a alternative workout method. “It’s for the seniors” I’ve heard. “But you just don’t get the same level of resistance training” some say. The fact that most gyms and community centers offer their water fitness classes during the normal working day doesn’t help with these stereotypes and misconceptions.
But did you know that aerobic training in water elicits similar body composition changes to exercise on land? A 2006 study found significant reductions in body weight and body fat percentages after 13 weeks of aquatic training for 40 minutes, 4 times a week.
What’s the key to success in the water? You must be sure to work at the same intensity, frequency and duration. Another study found in favor of moderate intensity, water based exercises as an effective exercises modality to improve glucose and insulin response.
Water provides 12-14 times more resistance than exercising out of the water, and 90% of a persons submerged weight is cancelled out by the buoyant support of the water. Combined, these 2 characteristics create a safe and effective environment for many high-impact moves with a much lower risk than when these same moves are done on land. Think less stress on joints, bones and muscles.
As with all exercise, benefits include: increase circulation, reduced heart rate and blood pressure, improved cardiovascular endurance, and increased flexibility.
Some important things to consider
Frequency If your primary fitness objective is weight loss, you should work out at a moderate intensity level 4 days a week for 30-45 minutes per session. Your goal for caloric burn is 250+ calories to really see the benefits. Combined with a 250 deficit in your caloric requirements you should see a sustainable weight loss.
Water Temperature should be monitored. Leading aquatic certifying agencies suggest a water temperature of 75°F - 83°F. This temperature might cause you to shiver at first, so start moving right away! Anything higher than this can cause the heart rate to speed up in an attempt to cool down the body; anything lower can raise blood pressure by restricting blood flow.
Safety first! While knowing how to swim in not necessary, it is important to know the depth of the water you are swimming in. Be sure someone is on duty at the pool or nearby who is CPR certified in case of an emergency. Also, be sure to keep a water bottle nearby. When you are working at a higher intensity you are still sweating - don't let working out in the water trick you into thinking you don't need to hydrate.
Heart Rate is generally lower in the water. It is generally recommended that you use a Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) or the talk test instead heart rate to measure exertion levels.
What to avoid
Raising your arms/hands out of the water
Hanging on the lane dividers (it’s just etiquette)
Staying in the lane for more than 30 minutes (if there is a wait)
Exercising in too shallow or too deep water. The water should be about mid-chest height, so that when you extend your arms out to the side they are in line with the water level.