If you need something new to shake up your workout routine, try hopping into the pool for water exercise. Water acts as a cushion, reducing the stress on muscles and joints, so you might find it more comfortable than land-based workouts. Abby Rezansoff, PT, DPT and Maggie Negrete, PTA, UnityPoint Health, explain the rules of the water and show five different exercises you can do in an indoor or outdoor pool.
*You should always check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program. All exercises should be pain-free. If you notice pain, including shortness of breath, lightheadedness or chest pain, stop the exercise and contact your physician.
When to Avoid Water Exercise
Water exercise might not be appropriate for those with the following conditions:
- Open wounds
- Skin infection
- Uncontrolled seizures
- Severe cardiac precautions
- Acute fever (fever above 99°F)
- Upper respiratory infection
- Severe pulmonary condition
Rules of the Water
- Slow=Easier, Faster=Harder. The slower you move, the less resistance you generate.
- Deeper water=Easier on joints, Shallower water=Harder on joints. Deeper water means less weight bearing and load through joints. Shallower water means more weight bearing and load through the joints.
Water Exercise Tips
- Don’t forget sunscreen. Lather up if you’ll be doing these exercises in an outdoor pool.
- Begin with a warm up. Five minutes of light aerobic activity, such as walking and light stretching.
- Remember to breathe, and never hold your breath. Some people get caught up while exercising, beginning the bad habit of holding their breath. Don’t fall into this group.
- End with a cool down. Five minutes of light aerobic activity and light stretching.
- It takes time. It takes six to 12 weeks of resistance training to see intended benefits.
5 Types of Water Exercises
Try the forward, backward and sideways water walking in an open environment for a cardiovascular challenge.
- Beginners walk slowly for 1-2 minutes in each direction. Intermediate levels should increase the pace, and perform each direction for 3-5 minutes.
A squat in the water is a great functional exercise to increase strength. While doing squats, the entire foot should be on the ground, and you should be able to wiggle your toes. If you achieve both, your weight distribution is correct.
- Perform 2-3 sets of 10 repetitions.
The kickboard row is a great upper body aquatic exercise.
- Try 2-3 sets of 10 repetitions.
Grab a few water noodles, and try water jacks for a deep water exercise that’ll focus on core and hip strengthening.
- Complete 2-3 sets of 10 repetitions for either the water jacks or scissor kicks.
Keep the noodles on hand, and try the pencil exercise to add more core work, while in the deep end of a pool. You can make it harder by pulling your knees to your chest.
- Perform the pencil for 2-3 sets of 30 seconds each. When adding the knee raises, work for 2-3 sets of 10 repetitions.
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