Published July 15, 2008

Aquatic Exercise: Getting Fit in the Pool

by Helen M. Ryan

Using water to get in shape is both effective and fun. It’s not just for seniors. Working out in the pool lets us work our bodies hard, yet stay cool and comfortable. Win-win!

There are a lot of exercise formats that have been developed and adapted for use in the pool including kickboxing, Pilates, yoga, sports-specific training, plyometrics, deep water running, targeted core training, and boot camps. Hey, we’ve even seen photos on Facebook of our friends cycling with an “underwater bike.” Too cool.

Benefits of Exercising in Water

It burns calories. A good water training session can burn up to 500 calories.

It works your whole body. When you move through the water you are always meeting resistance, which challenges your muscles. Water gives you a well-balanced workout that hits on all the major components of fitness: Endurance, muscular strength, and flexibility…in one shot.

It saves time. In the pool, your exercise sessions involve working more than one muscle at a time, so you get more done in less time.

It’s easy on the joints. Water makes your body buoyant so there’s less impact on our joints. Not only is this good for our older population, but athletes needing cross-training, rehabilitation patients, and pregnant women also benefit from reduced stress on the joints.

It reduces back pain and strengthens the core. Water gives you a low- to a no-impact workout that places less stress on the spine, which sometimes allows you to work harder than you can while you’re on land. Deep water exercise is also a really effective core strengthener. A stronger core can help your back.

It provides cross-training. Repetitive motion can lead to injuries (I’ll have to stop mopping), so moving your workout into the pool or just changing your exercise routine gives your body a well-deserved break. Runners, for example, can get a nearly identical workout running in deeper water as on land, with much less impact.

It keeps you cool. Though you do sweat during pool workouts, the water helps wash the sweat away so you don’t feel as uncomfortable. Overheating is a real danger during workouts when it’s hot, and that’s much less likely in the pool.

It relaxes you. Mmm, yes. Being in water relaxes you and helps you sleep better. Mind-body classes like pool yoga and water Pilates can also relax you while giving you a better range of motion. When in doubt, just float. The gentle motion of the water will cradle you and let your muscles release.