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Water Works Wonders

Summer time, fun, sun and water all seem to go together.  What better way than to spend a hot day in or around water?  This time of year many of us are heading to pools, beaches, rivers and lakes to enjoy the summer heat in the water.  Water is fun and refreshing. We all know that.  But did you realize just how good movement in the water can be for you? 

Whether kids or adults are playing or exercising in the water, they are using a lot of muscles and energy.   Jumping over big ocean waves, treading water to cool off, walking on the beach or shoreline, climbing into or out of a pool, basic swimming and simple arm and leg movement in the water makes our body and muscles work.  With the summer and water season upon us, let’s discuss the great benefits of water exercise and explore activities you can do in the water to make your body work!

Benefits of Exercising in Water

BOUANCY

Our bodies become more buoyant in the water helping us move with more ease. Water’s buoyancy virtually eliminates the effects of gravity – supporting 90% of the body’s weight for reduced impact. For example, a 140 lb. person weighs only 14 lb. in the water. Water acts as a cushion for the body’s weight-bearing joints to reduce stress on muscles, tendons and ligaments.

RESISTANCE

Moving through the water provides resistance. Resistance in water ranges between four and 42 times greater than in air – depending on the speed of movement. This makes water a natural and instantly-adjustable weight-training machine. Water’s resistance can be increased with speed and/or surface area. With the addition of water fitness equipment such as noodles, empty milk jugs, floats and footwear, resistance is increased to strengthen and tone muscles.

COOLING EFFECT

Moving the body through water provides a natural cooling effect.  A person can move harder and longer when he/she doesn’t have to worry about becoming overheated.  When moving through the water, one is naturally cooled so the recreational activity, movement or exercise can go longer than when not in the water.  Take for instance, someone who is playing sand volleyball in the hot sun verses water volleyball.  The water volleyball player is naturally cooled and can last longer.

Health Benefits of Exercising in the Water

BUILDS MUSCULAR STRENGTH AND ENDURANCE

 The added resistance when moving through water helps build strength and muscle endurance.  Whatever the movement may be, your muscles need to work to pull you through the water.  Try walking up current of a running stream or river or pushing a half gallon empty milk jug through the water.  Also try holding onto a rope as you are on a tube and pulled through the water.  These all use muscle power to perform the movement.  When the muscles are challenged or worked, we see a toning effect on our body.

CARDIOVASCULAR STRENGTHENING

Water movement or water exercise also enhances the cardiovascular system.   Swimming and aerobic exercise in the water improves your body’s use of oxygen without overworking the heart.  As you become more fit and are able to swim longer, your resting heart rate and respiratory rate will be reduced, making blood flow to the heart and lungs more efficient. 

FLEXIBILITY IMPROVEMENTS

Because the water helps to take loads off the skeletal system and joints, one can see a better range of motion in the water when compared to out of the water.  There’s no stress on your bones, joints or connective tissues due to buoyancy and the fact that you weigh 1/10th less in water; therefore, our joints can move easier resulting in an increased range of motion out of the water.

IMPROVES BLOOD PRESSURE

Studies have shown that a workout routine that includes swimming, water walking or any cardiovascular exercise in the water can help reduce and possibly prevent high blood pressure, which lowers your risk for heart disease and stroke.

STRESS REDUCTION

 Swimming, recreational activities and any water exercise is extremely relaxing because it allows more oxygen to flow to your muscles and forces you to regulate your breathing. It’s also a great way to relieve stress. Our bodies are made up of about 60% water, so it’s no wonder why some feel such a draw to the water.

 

Here are some examples of things you can do in the water this summer to work out the body:

  • Water fitness classes: leg lifts, side bends, arm work, etc.
  • Water walking or jogging, jumping jacks, cross country skiing, twists
  • Swimming, treading water, using kick boards
  • Water volleyball, tag, keep away
  • Category jumping
  • King of the raft, tube or some large flotation device

 

All of these wonderful water benefits apply to people of all ages and fitness levels.  Some are afraid of the water or maybe don’t participate because they don’t swim. Well, many of these water workout ideas don’t even require that you know how to swim.  As with any exercise program, you also need to keep the exercise regular, or ongoing.

At Capital Region Medical Center, we use water exercise as a way to rehabilitate after an injury, or to gain function from a genetic or developed musculoskeletal dysfunction.  We have one-on-one physician-prescribed aquatic therapy sessions or small group Workout in Water exercise classes.   We have a special therapy pool where we can easily change the water levels to work with young children or adults of varying heights.  As one becomes stronger, we are able to decrease the amount of the body in the water, as to gradually increase the weight bearing effect on the body.  The pool temperature at both of our facilities, Capital Region Medical Center’s Sam B. Cook Healthplex and Healthplex West, is around 90-92 degrees.  The warm water is conducive to the young children, injured athletes and the elderly arthritic clients.  This allows the exercise program to be held year round. 

So whatever your needs are this summer – get out in a pool and try some movement.  Make your heart, muscles and skeletal system work. Get your daily exercise in and have fun while you do it!