I ran into a friend of mine in the grocery store a couple of days ago and she proceeded to tell me about her husband and his health challenges. A few years ago he had one of his hips replaced and was scheduled to have the other replaced last week. Turns out that after spending 5 hours in pre-op they couldn't operate because of his blood sugar and his blood pressure. After running a bunch of tests it showed that he was diabetic and that his blood pressure was sky high which meant that they could not do the hip replacement surgery because the risk was too high. My friend and her husband are both in their mid 40's.
She was both furious with him and frantic as to what his exercise options were considering his physical limitations. What does a person do if they can't walk because they're in pain - how are they supposed to work out?
Well the short answer is get in the pool but I don't mean for swimming laps. There is a big difference between swimming laps and just about every other type of workout that you can do in water. The cool thing about working out in the water is that you have such a variety of workout options! The biggest difference between swimming laps and even walking in the water is the level of resistance you encounter and what a great workout it is for your core.
Some other cool benefits from working out with your feet on the bottom is that it actually helps the blood flow back to your heart and oxygen enters your blood more rapidly under the partial pressure created by submerging your body vertically in water as opposed to horizontally. There is also very low to no impact working out in the water so even people with arthritis can be successful working out pain free.
At this point you may be thinking "Wow water sounds great for rehab but I'm not injured - I'm in pretty good shape and really want a more challenging workout." My response to that is that more and more professional sports teams are doing training workouts in water to help with increasing vertical jump height, increasing speed and reducing risk of over use injuries to list just a few of the benefits. The year that Brazil won the soccer World Cup they had added training in the water to their training program.
The cool thing about water is that the harder you push against it the harder it is to push against ~ the easier you push the easier it is to push. In fact you can even gain strength and muscle in addition to increasing your cardio capacity. It's easy to sing the praises of working out in the water!
Here's a little known fact about working out in the water is for all of you heart rate monitor users who don't like working out in the water because your heart rate doesn't get as high as on land..... If your heart rate on land for a work out is say 150 BPM (beats per mintue) then your heart rate for the same level of exertion in water will be 140. You're working out just as hard it's just that your heart rate is 10 beats per minute lower in water than on land. This has to do with how your body dissipates heat in water versus on land.
So whether you have health challenges or are a serious athlete working out in the water is a great way to get and stay in shape in a way that is gentle on your joints and great for your body. I hope that you don't get the idea that I am anti lap swimming it's just that there is so much more to water workouts than swimming laps.
For more information check out these great organizations:
Aquatic Exercise Association http://www.aeawave.com
Aquatic Therapy and Rehab Institute http://www.atri.org
Here's to your Health, Wellness and Fitness,
Jennifer Malocha CEO of Fun at Wuhoo Fitness