Get Into the Swim of Things
Are you ready to take the plunge and
try a new fitness activity? How about water exercise?
Also known as aquatics, water exercise
is one of the best non-impact fitness activities around and just about anybody
can participate. Pregnant women, the elderly or overweight, individuals with
arthritis or those recovering from an injury can all benefit from the wide
variety of aquatics classes currently available.
Get into the swim of things
Here are the facts: The buoyancy of
water reduces the ''weight'' of a person by about 90 percent. This means that
the stress on weight-bearing joints, bones and muscles is similarly reduced.
For this reason, it is unlikely that a
water workout will result in injury or leave you with sore muscles. That's why
the pool is such a great place for people with arthritis or back problems to
exercise, and for those who are new to exercise.
But don't get the idea that just
because it doesn't hurt, you can't get a great workout in the pool. Water
exercise can encompass all of the components of fitness: cardiovascular fitness,
muscular strength and endurance, and flexibility. And, when done regularly,
water exercise can help reduce body fat.
Water works your heart
Aerobic workouts in the pool are
perfect for those who find the same movements on land too jarring or painful:
running, striding, kicking, leaping and even dancing.
Keep in mind that in the water, heart
rate will be reduced by as much as 17 beats per minute when compared to land
exercise. That's why it's so important to pay attention to how you feel. Your
heart rate might indicate that your intensity is too low when you are actually
exercising quite strenuously.
Water adds resistance
The resistance of water is perfect for
a strength-training workout - instead of weights, the water itself provides the
resistance. One of the easiest ways to create resistance in the water is to cup
your hands and push or pull the water away from you.
Other devices, such as hand-held
paddles and water chutes can increase the resistance to provide a more intense
The flexible benefits of water
One of the greatest benefits of water
exercise is its effect on flexibility. Water is a welcome environment for
performing stretches that might otherwise be difficult on land.
Because the effects of gravity are
lessened, you can move your joints through a wider range of motion and achieve
Once you've decided to take the plunge,
it's simply a matter of finding the right class for you. Check with your health
club or YMCA to see if they offer aquatics classes and drop in on one or two to
see if they are right for your fitness level.
A good class should include a good warm
up, a period of cardiovascular and muscle conditioning that gradually increases
and then decreases in intensity, and a cool down. The cool down should include
plenty of flexibility exercises for the entire body.
If you have a preference for music,
find a class that suits your taste. Don't be afraid to ask about instructor
qualifications and safety precautions. Your instructor should be certified and
may also have special training in aquatic exercise.
The pool is a fun place to feel like a
kid again and get a great workout. In fact, instead of feeling out of breath or
exhausted, a water class can leave you feeling surprisingly calm, yet energetic.
So, even if you're a dip-your-toe-in-the-water type of person, don't be afraid
to take the plunge into water fitness.