Water aerobics classes can focus on a more cardiovascular workout or a resistance workout. Swimming laps or a cardio-oriented water aerobics class works the cardiovascular system, but by simply using hand paddles the workout also becomes an upper-body resistance workout. If you want more resistance you can use aqua dumbbells, noodles or hand paddles for upper-body training or water rings for lower-body training. You can get the benefits of both without causing stress on your joints. Studies have shown that working out in the water also helps keep blood pressure down because the body’s cooling system is not being taxed — another benefit to exercising in the water. Water workouts can be ideal for people with any form of orthopedic injury including back problems, lower torso injuries or people new to fitness or just coming back to a program of conditioning, cardio exercise and toning.
There are plenty of enjoyable water sports as well that can be used to help build the body. Sports such as water polo, water soccer and water volleyball, while competitive and fun, are very good for building muscle. The great thing about aqua fitness is that it tends to use the whole body as you train and exercise.
Bodybuilding in typical fashion generally requires exercises involving free weights and machines that focus on a primary and secondary muscle structure. For instance, when you do curls with either a dumbbell or a barbell, you are using the resistance of the weight to strengthen the bicep as you curl the weight up, and you are stressing the triceps as you lower the weight back down. Two muscles are exercised, and unhealthy strain is placed on the back, which supports the exercise as there is little to no support behind it. The same exact exercise done under water with far less weight is more effective and safer: the back is reinforced by the water itself and you can use far less weight. Less weight means less pressure on the back, because of the resistance of the water it really exercises the muscle. In the water, all of the back muscles and abdominal muscles are utilized as well, due to the resistance of the water, so you get a far more effective workout. The deeper you stand in the water during exercise, the more intense your workout. You can elevate the intensity even more by doing the workout in depths above your head with or without a floatation device.
For children of all ages, playing in the water and learning how to swim has the same benefits as it does for adults. It helps them build strong bones and muscles and allows the body to be active while protecting the joints and bones, which, for children, have not yet fully developed. Children who participate in water activities gain an appreciation for an active lifestyle, which is so important in this age of computer games. In addition, a child who learns to swim gains a sense of accomplishment and helps develop confidence in themselves that they will carry with them into other learning and playing activities.
For the young, old and in between, water is our friend!
Judy Hershman is a registered personal trainer and senior aqua instructor at the 12th Street Gym. For more info on Judy and more than 30 other top trainers at 12th Street Gym, go to www.12streetgym.com. Judy is also co-owner of Kids On 12th, Center City’s largest and most creative children’s health and fitness center co-located with the 12th Street Gym.