Benefits of Water-based Exercise

Learn who benefits from water workouts
women doing water aerobics in pool

Contributor: Daniel Hass, PT, DPT

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All exercise has a range of health benefits, from helping to prevent or control many health conditions to controlling weight and improving mood and energy level. Water-based exercise programs are a fun way to bring variety into your exercise routine while taking full advantage of the benefits this new physical activity can bring. 

The Aquatic Exercise Association reports that you can expect to burn 400 to 500 calories per hour when exercising in the water. Additionally, water offers 12 times the resistance of air, which helps to improve muscle strength.  Simple devices such as hand-held paddles, foam noodles and rings, and kickboards can add further resistance to increase the intensity of an aquatic workout.  The pool is also a great place to perform stretches to improve overall flexibility.

How water workouts work their magic

Water workouts can be an excellent form of exercise for those who are overweight, suffering from lower back pain, arthritis and/or injuries to the lower extremities. Water places an upward force on a person. This principle known as “buoyancy” means that you can be unweighted by as much as 90 percent when in the water up to neck level. This lower impact on joints is ideal for those who have pain when doing most land-based exercises. For these reasons, aquatic exercise is a common tool used in physical therapy and other rehabilitation settings. It often helps to improve strength and mobility in patients recovering from surgeries and those suffering from painful and/or chronic musculoskeletal conditions.

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Aquatic exercise is beneficial for people of all ages and ability levels. And with the variety of water-based exercises available, it should be easy to find something you enjoy. Some popular forms of water-based exercise include, swimming laps, walking or running under water and water aerobics classes. 

Check with your local rec center

Specific information regarding which aquatic exercise is best for you, and what classes are offered, can be found at your local health club or recreation center. Keep in mind, many centers will require a physician’s approval before permitting participation in an aquatic exercise program.

So, next time you are looking for a way to mix up your exercise routine or deal with chronic pain, consider the many water-based activities available to you.

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