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FUN WATER EXERCISE

by ACE Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine Institute, Alexandria, Arlington/Clarendon, Falls Church/ Merrifield, Fairfax / Fair Oaks, Great Falls, Herndon / Reston, Lansdowne / Leesburg, Tysons / Vienna

 

It is so hot in the Washington DC area right now that there’s nothing like jumping in a pool of cold water. It’s not only refreshing but can be a great place to work out. Water-based exercise is usually just as effective as land-based exercise and there’s no limit to the types of exercises you can perform. The water provides a buoyancy to the human body. This reduced effect of gravity on the body makes it easier for almost everyone to enjoy some form of exercise in the water.

Any fitness program should work to increase cardiovascular conditioning, strengthen the muscles, and increase the flexibility throughout the soft tissues of the body.  Here are some of the ways a well-designed water exercise program will address each of these issues.

Aerobics:

Water can provide an excellent atmosphere for a cardiovascular workout.  The resistance that is felt during the movement through the water forces the system to work harder.  The increased heart rate helps to strengthen the heart and improve the cardiovascular fitness.  A couple of possible activities that will help develop the cardiovascular system are water walking and jogging, water aerobics (organized class), and water jumping (simulate jumping rope).   All of these activities can elevate the heart rate significantly.  The goal is to raise it to at least 60% of your maximum heart rate (approximately 220 – your age).  Anything over 60% will be a benefit for the cardiovascular system.  Exercising at roughly 70% of your maximum heart rate for 30 minutes or longer at least 3 times per week has been linked to a better quality of life and in some studies living longer.Strength:

Strength gains can occur while working out in the water providing the musculoskeletal system is “over loaded” with some form of resistance.  The water can be used to strengthen the upper and lower extremities.  The addition of hand paddles can increase the amount of resistance that is encountered during the movement of the arms through the water.   Almost any exercise that is performed on land can be mimicked in the water.  The goal is to forcefully move the limbs through the water.  Strength gains will occur, but they will require a great deal of effort.  The effects of gravity will be significantly reduced during the exercise routine.  The same training principles can be used in the water when attempting to gain strength.  The resistance must be increased gradually and number of repetitions should remain between 5-15.  In most cases, high resistance is used with a lower number of repetitions when attempting to gain strength.

Flexibility:

Being “flexible” can be defined as the soft tissues of the body are able to move through a full range of motion easily and with very little pain or discomfort.  The soft tissues that are most commonly found to cause restrictions to movement are the static stabilizing structures of the musculoskeletal system.  These tissues are the consistency of leather and need to be stretched repeatedly in order to develop greater flexibility.  Movement in water can be very relaxing and “free.”  The weightlessness of the limbs in the water makes it easier to move them through a larger range of motion.  This slow, deliberate motion can aid the increase in flexibility and provides a dynamic stretch to the soft tissues of the body.

Physical Therapy can utilize water therapy to help a person rehabilitate an injury. The ease in motion, due to the reduction of gravity, can increase the amount of movement in an injured body part.  Physical Therapists can help you determine what exercises can be performed in the water to help in the recovery process.  Many lower extremity injuries benefit greatly with water walking and running and these activities can be performed much sooner in the rehabilitation process due to the elimination of gravity. Likewise, upper extremity movements are accomplished more easily in the rehabilitation process for the same reason.

Water can provide a great place for people to have fun and exercise at the same time.  Nearly any land based exercise can be modified and performed in the water with similar results to the human body.  All aspects of physical conditioning can be “worked on” in the water.

 The author of this article, ACE Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine Institute has multiple Physical Therapy clinics in the VA /DC Metro area at Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church / Merrifield, Fairfax / Fair Oaks, Herndron / Reston, Lansdowne / Leesburg & Tysons Corner / Vienna .  IF IT HURTS, SEE ACE PT FIRST!

Tid Bits of Info.

  • Exercising in the water for 1 hour can burn in excess of 500 calories.
  • Exercising in water makes you feel about 90% lighter.
  • Water exercise is low impact and good for anyone with degenerative joint disease.
  • Water exercises have been linked to a decrease in fall risk and osteoporotic changes.
  • Seek the advice and treatment from a Physical Therapist if you develop pain and part of the treatment protocol might be in the water.

 

 

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