As a triathlete, over the years I had my share of joint and muscle related injuries. Some of these to the point that it impacted my ability to train as I normally would through swimming, biking and running. Not wanting to lose the fitness that I had worked hard to gain over the course of a training year, I began looking into some alternative forms of exercise that I could engage in that would not add to my injury, while at the same time allowing me to continue the recuperation process.
Water exercise is something that many of us swimmers have at least encountered other people doing from time-to-time while we are the pool, but I bet that many of you have not given it a try. I have to say before going any further, water exercise is not only for older folks, nor does it have to be used solely for rehabilitation. Water exercise is an effective way to maintain cardio fitness, increase strength and keep you going in the event of an injury. Because of buoyancy, the water supports our body weight, which translates into a very low-impact form of exercise.
Water exercise is a great option for pregnant women, as it is a safe and more comfortable way to continue exercising while expecting. People with joint issues such as arthritis, back pain, severely overweight people, or other conditions that make walking and running difficult have found water exercise to be a tolerable form of physical activity. Most large fitness centers and gyms offer group water exercise classes that are lead by certified instructors.
Water exercise is also a great way for athletes to exercise similar muscle groups on back-to-back training days. The way this works is that an athlete can engage in a running workout on Monday, yet instead of running again on land on Tuesday, which greatly increases risk of injury, the athlete can run in the pool which will have much less impact on the joints. This allows the athlete to continue recovering from Monday's run. Water running is one of the most effective forms of water exercise, and utilizes the same sport-specific muscles that running on land does. If water running is too difficult, especially for folks recovering from an injury, water marching is a good starting point.
There are some water exercise tools that people can purchase to use to add variety to their water exercise programs. Some of these include flotation belts (used for running in the deep end, which adds intensity and resistance to water running), kick-boards (used to focus on building leg strength while swimming), water dumbbells (used to perform arm resistance exercises that are typical of land based dumbbell exercises such as shoulder raises and biceps curls), fins and water socks (also used for increasing leg strength by swimming or kicking type water exercises). Most of these items can be purchased online or at your local sporting goods store.
Water adds as much as 12 times the resistance as doing the same type of exercise on land. Vigorously treading water burns approximately 11 calories per minute, which is the same as running 6 miles per hour. Water exercise is a great way to add variety and fun to your exercise programs and can allow you to continue exercising through certain injuries. As always, check with your licensed healthcare professional before beginning any exercise program, especially if you have a preexisting injury or health condition.
In Wellness and Love,
Dr. Christopher Weaver DC, PAK is a Doctor of Chiropractic and Professional Applied Kinesiologist. He's published two books on health and Wellness.