The dog days of summer are upon us! When it gets this hot, it's hard to stick with your exercise routine. Who wants to work out in this heat? On days like these all you want to do is relax and maybe hop in the pool. What if you could do both? Get your exercise and cool off in the pool at the same time!
The pool is an excellent place to get a good workout. You can get aerobic exercise, burn calories, even do strength training and balancing exercises. No matter what your age or fitness level, the pool offers many ways for you to get in a solid workout. Here are a few benefits of exercise you can get in the pool!
It's for everybody
When people think of working out in the pool, they think of swimming laps. But there are other ways to work out in the pool, even if you can't swim or are not a strong swimmer. The natural resistance of the water will give you a workout just by walking across the pool in the shallow end. If you do this long enough and at a high enough intensity level, you've got yourself a workout!
Even if you don't feel comfortable letting go of the side, there are a number of exercises that can be done while grabbing on to the side of the pool. For non-swimmers, taking a swim lesson, whether for adults or children, will also give you a workout while you learn and get more comfortable in the water!
Working out in the pool is a great aerobic exercise. Whether swimming laps or doing water aerobics, the cardio vascular benefits of the pool are plentiful. Yes, swimming builds muscle and burns calories, but the resistance of the water, rhythmic breathing, and the amount of time spent in the water all improve elements of cardiovascular fitness. They combine to make swimming one of the best aerobic workouts you can get.
The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day. If you stay in the pool and keep moving for half an hour, the entire time in the pool can be a moderate exercise. In chest deep water, you have to use your arms to help you move, even if you aren't swimming. Using your whole body will increase your heart rate and give your muscles a workout.
While it may not be surprising to think of swimming as an aerobic exercise, when it comes to strength training, the pool is certainly not the first place that comes to mind. But in fact, there are many ways to strength train in the pool. For starters, lap swimming will build strength as well as give an aerobic workout. The pull with the arms gives your upper body a complete workout combined with the kick that works your legs and abdominal muscles. Lap swimming is a full body workout.
You can also use the natural buoyancy and resistance of the water for strength training as well. You can use water weights, which, instead of being heavy like the weights you would use on land, are made of Styrofoam and meant to be pressed down under the water for resistance. Just like free weights on land, there are a number of workout routines that use the water weights to work out various muscle groups. There also workouts that build muscle by using the side of the pool and the natural resistance of the water. Before beginning any new strength training routine, it is best to consult with a trained professional to learn proper technique to minimize the potential for injury.
Swimming can also help build endurance, especially when it comes to lap swimming. Most people swimming for exercise aren't trying to beat Michael Phelps in a race, but instead are trying to swim greater distances. Distance swimming incorporates a number of different skills that help build endurance. First is the rhythmic breathing necessary for swimming since no one can breathe underwater. Breathing is about as natural a thing as you can do on land, but not so in water.
When swimming the freestyle stroke, (face down in the water with alternating arm strokes and scissor kick), swimmers learn to turn their head to the side so their mouth breaks the surface of the water in order to take a quick breath in. Then, they breathe out slowly and steadily under water until they are ready to take their next breath. It is important not to hold your breath when your face is in the water, depriving your body of oxygen and causing you to tire more quickly. Could you imagine a runner holding their breath for extended periods of time while running? You can't breathe in under water, but you can certainly breathe out!
Once a swimmer masters the proper breathing technique, they are ready to add distance and repetition which will build strength and endurance. FUN FACT: In order to swim a mile in a standard length 25 yard swimming pool, you would have to swim 70.5 lengths of the pool!
Flexibility and Balance
Because we can float in water, we can move in ways that defy gravity. In the pool, you can stretch in ways that you can't on land, especially if you have certain physical limitations. This allows you to stretch different muscles that you can't normally stretch which can help you gain greater flexibility. The pool is also a great place to help regain range of motion and flexibility in joints.
Water exercise can help to improve balance as well. The water helps to hold you up, making balancing exercises that would be very difficult on land, much easier in the water. An individual who struggles with balance, or who needs to strengthen the muscles that help with balance, can start working those muscles in the pool without risking injury as they improve their balance.
The same properties of water which make us weightless for greater flexibility and balance, also help to create a low impact workout environment. A lot of land exercises such as running and aerobics classes are high impact exercises, meaning they put a lot of stress on the joints like knees, ankles, and hips. Water exercise has little to no impact, even with a shallow water workout.
"Patients who can greatly benefit from aquatic over land exercise include those who have a tough time with impact or painful joints with land exercise," said Jessica Kaplan, PT, DPT of Community Care Physical Therapy.
The resistance of the water limits the speed and the force with which you can make contact with the floor of the pool. Also, the water displaces most of your weight so you only weigh a fraction of your overall weight when in chest deep water. This can be very beneficial to patients who experience joint pain while doing land exercise.
"If a patient was having difficulty walking on a treadmill due to knee pain," says Kaplan, "I would recommend water aerobics to eliminate the joint pressure."
Who wants to sweat, anyway?
While it is possible to work up a sweat in the pool, you often don't notice it since you are already in the water. Some people love to sweat while working out, while for others, it may not be so desirable. But exercising hard enough to sweat, and sustaining that level of intensity, is how exercise helps us to shed those extra pounds. Swimming is a great way to reach a high intensity level workout without getting dowsed in sweat. The water keeps you cool on its own, and instantly washes the sweat away, which is everything you want from a workout on a hot summer's day!