When people ask me how to get started exercising in the summer, I say, “Just add water!” Water-based workouts can be a great way to get started getting more fit, or even just changing up your usual routine. So many activities that can be done on land may be done in water, from running to aerobics to even Zumba® routines! Because water provides much more resistance than air, even simple movements such as walking become more challenging (not to mention more fun!) when done in a pool, lake, or ocean. As your muscles work harder to move you from point A to B, you may burn more calories and build strength.
Another perk of water-based fitness: It can be a great option for people who are looking to lose weight or get in better shape because the water makes aerobic activity more gentle on the joints. “Exercising in a pool is a lot like exercising on the moon,” says W. Guyton Hornsby, Jr., PhD, CDE*, an associate professor of exercise physiology at West Virginia University. “The buoyancy of the water helps support your body so you’re really only having to carry about a sixth of your weight.” Your knees may hurt from the thought of jumping rope on land, but performing the same jumping movement in a pool takes the pressure off bones, joints, and muscles. I’ve found even standing still feels easier when my body is supported by water! As with any other type of exercise, check with your healthcare team before getting started.
If you’re looking for cardio options, which can boost your calorie burn, consider swimming or water jogging (on the pool floor or in the deep end, while floating with a foam belt around your waist). You may also want to sign up for a water-based fitness class, like water aerobics or pool Zumba® routines. Many local YMCAs have “aquacise” classes (find your local Y here), and the American Red Cross offers fitness and water safety classes as well. To help build muscle, look for a strength training class held in the water. These tend to tone the body with either resistance bands or weights made of foam, which are difficult to keep below the surface.
Many water-based classes are a good choice for beginners – just let the instructor know you’re new to the class and go at your own pace. “But swimming may take a bit more training,” says Hornsby. “A swim coach can help you learn to move more efficiently in the water, add power to your strokes, and even breathe easier. You may need to invest in swim goggles and a swim cap, depending on pool regulations and the strokes you plan to learn.”
If all that’s standing between you and a water workout is the dread of putting on a swimsuit, fear not! People are at the pool to exercise, not ogle, truly! Also, while a sleek spandex suit may be recommended for swimming, it’s not a requirement for other workouts like water aerobics. In fact, during the pool-based fitness studies Hornsby has led, most exercisers arrived at the pool with a t-shirt and shorts over their suits and kept one or both on during the workout. So come dressed at your comfort level. Just be ready to move – and have fun!
Jessica Cassity is a health reporter for SELF, Fitness, and Shape magazines, and the author of Better Each Day: 365 Expert Tips for a Healthier, Happier You. She is a Portland-based Pilates and yoga teacher and blogs at thehappyandhealthyblog.com. Cassity is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor and interviewee, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.
*“Certified Diabetes Educator” and “CDE” are certification marks owned and registered by the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators (NCBDE). NCBDE is not affiliated in any way with Sanofi US. NCBDE does not sponsor or endorse any diabetes-related products or services.
© 2013 The DX: The Diabetes Experience