Working out is more fun when you’re splashing around in your gym or community pool. Aquatic exercises can burn fat and they’re healing, too, easing symptoms for arthritis and fibromyalgia sufferers. Dive into a new workout regimen with 8 moves that’ll get or keep you fit…
Water is one of the best fitness tools there is. Here are some of the ways aquatic workouts help:
They provide resistance, which strengthens muscles and boosts cardio intensity.
Water supports some of your weight, making workouts easier on joints and reducing the chances for an injury, especially if you’re overweight and out-of-shape. “Working out in water is very safe because no joints or bones are forced to bear too heavy a load,” says Andrew Jones, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon in Chapel Hill, N.C.
You may heal faster; doctors often recommend aquatic exercises for people with joint injuries or infections, or who’ve had surgery, as a way to stay fit and shorten recovery time.
You could get relief from symptoms of chronic conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), fibromyalgia and arthritis.
A pool workout gives you “better balance, agility and endurance, which is a great confidence boost for anyone who has shied away from exercise in the past,” says clinical exercise physiologist Mary Sanders, Ph.D., associate professor at the University of Nevada School of Medicine in Reno.
Pool exercises are great fat-burners. “You can burn a higher level of calories in a shorter time in the pool,” says Sanders.
Working out in the water doesn’t feel much like work. “It’s impossible not to smile as you jump into a pool — and enjoying your workout is the best way to make sure you’ll stick with it,” Sanders says.
To get the most of your water workout, follow these tips:
Don’t go in deeper than waist-high. That way your feet will have good contact with the pool floor and your leg muscles will be able to support some of your weight.
Wear water shoes to improve traction and webbed gloves (usually made of Neoprene with webbing between the fingers) to add resistance and intensity to arm movements, Sanders suggests. Both can be found at sporting-goods stores and online.
Drink lots of water during and after your workout: “You can get dehydrated in the pool as easily as you can on land,” she says.
One of the easiest and most effective pool workouts is water jogging. At a high intensity, you’ll burn 17 calories per minute — more than on land. It also makes you stronger.
Sanders advises her clients to jog for 1-to-3-minute intervals in waist-high water, and then alternate with less cardio-heavy water exercises.
“It lets you keep the number of calories burned high, but doesn’t require the endurance to jog for more than several minutes at a time,” she says.
Ready to jump in?
Many gyms, community recreation centers and Ys with pools offer water aerobics classes. But if you’re ready to go it alone, add these 8 fun water exercises to your aquatic jogging routine:
Pool Exercise 1: Spiderman
Climb the pool wall like Spiderman climbs buildings! This exercise helps you defy gravity in a way that just isn’t possible on land. It also provides a unique challenge to your core and back muscles.
How to do it: Stand in water at the side of the pool. Stabilize your upper body by sweeping your hands back and forth as you run your legs up the side of the pool and back down to the pool floor. Do four Spiderman exercises, alternating the leading leg each time you reach the end of one jogging circuit.
Pool Exercise 2: Pool Plank
Planks are a proven core-strengthener on land. But if you don’t have a strong upper body it’s hard to hold it long enough to give abdominal muscles a good workout. All that changes in a pool.
Plus, planks boost your endurance and “the water pushing and pulling on you increases the challenge to your core,” Sanders explains.
How to do it:Stand on the pool floor. Hold a “noodle” ( also called a “water log,” a long cylindrical piece of foam that floats) vertically in both hands. Press it straight down into the water and lean forward until your body is on an even incline. (Your head stays out of the water.) Try to keep yourself stable for 1 to 2 minutes.
Pool Exercise 3: Chaos Cardio
This exercise takes jogging to a new level. By creating several currents in the pool and then running through them, you’ll strengthen all your core stabilizing muscles.
“Run with proper alignment — ears, shoulders and hips in one vertical line — so your core is forced to do the work of keeping you upright, not your shoulders or your legs,” Sanders says.
How to do it: Run in a zigzag pattern from one end of the pool to the other, then run straight through all the currents you’ve just created. Do 3-minute intervals, alternating with something less cardio-intensive, such as Pool Plank or One-Legged Balance (below).
Pool Exercise 4: One-Legged Balance
This strengthens your leg and core muscles, the ones responsible for balance, without the risk of falling and hurting yourself.
“Your core has to kick in to keep you upright, increasing your static balance,” Sanders says.
How to do it: Standing in waist-high water, lift your left knee up and place the middle of a noodle under your left foot. (Its sides will float up into a U-shape.) Keep your hands by your side and balance with your left foot on the noodle for one minute.
Then move your left knee out to the side and balance for another minute. Switch legs and repeat with the right knee lifted and the right foot resting on the noodle.
For an extra challenge, lift both arms up over your head as you balance.
If you’re in the pool with your kids, have them jog in circles around you to create currents that will further challenge your balance.
Pool Exercise 5: Fly-Backs
In the water, as on land, fly-backs work the muscles in the upper chest, back and arms. They also improve posture.
How to do it:Start in a lunge position with your right knee bent and your left leg extended straight behind you in the pool. Reach your arms straight out in front of you at chest height — palms touching, fingers extended and thumbs up.
Open your arms straight out to the sides in the water, then return them to the starting position to complete one rep.
Do four sets of 8 to 15 reps, switching the forward leg for each set. To boost your cardio workout and the number of calories burned, do your reps while walking or jogging across the pool.
Pool Exercise 6: Cardio/Resistance Combo
Strengthen your upper chest, back, arms and core with this challenging drill. It also raises your heart rate and burns more calories.
How to do it: Straddle a noodle as if you were sitting on a horse. Pedal around the pool as fast as you can while doing the arm portion of Fly-Backs (see above), opening and closing your arms. Sit up tall with your spine vertical — no leaning. This will force your core muscles to keep you stable. Continue for 3 minutes.
Pool Exercise 7: Core Ball Static Challenge
This deceptively simple exercise strengthens your core as you work to keep yourself upright. By changing the position of your arms and legs, it becomes four exercises in one.
How to do it:
Version A: Stand in a lunge with your right leg bent and your left leg extended behind you. Hold an inflated ball about 6 inches in diameter (like those found in a drugstore or toy store) with both hands directly in front of your navel. Keep your shoulders down and back. Hold this position for 30 seconds, engaging your core to keep you upright. Switch legs and hold for another 30 seconds.
Version B: Do the entire exercise in version A, this time holding the ball with your arms outstretched, so the ball is just under the surface of the water for an added core challenge.
Version C: Balance on the right leg with your left knee lifted. Hold the ball in front of your navel as in version A for 30 seconds. Repeat while standing on the left leg with the right knee lifted.
Version D: Balance again on your right foot, left knee lifted. Hold the ball with arms outstretched as in version B, holding for 30 seconds. Repeat while standing on the left leg with the right knee lifted.
Pool Exercise 8: Cardio Core Ball Running
This exercise combines cardio with core-strengthening. The ball adds extra resistance and pulls you off-center so your core muscles have to engage to keep you moving forward. Changing the position of the ball works your core even harder.
How to do it:
Version A: Hold the ball with both hands directly in front of your navel. Run across the pool as fast as you can for one minute. Rest for 30 seconds, then repeat 3 more times, increasing speed through each rep.
Version B: Tuck the ball under your right arm at waist height. With your shoulders facing forward (don’t twist toward the ball), run across the pool as fast as you can for 1 minute. Move the ball to your left side and run for another minute. Repeat 4 times, running faster each time.