Visit the pool at your local ‘Y’ or sports/recreation centre and you’re bound to see adults of all ages stretching, running, lunging, weight training, and swimming! Aquatic exercise – including swimming, water-based resistance training or water aerobics – is popular among people who want a low impact workout. For older adults it’s can be a great option to stay active… not to mention, it looks like fun!
But how does a water workout compare to land-based exercise?
A recent well-done systematic review measured the fitness level of participants who took part in different types of aquatic exercise programs compared to those who didn’t exercise at all, or who did land-based exercises (1). The participants (89% women), were all 50 years or older, were generally healthy but not exercising regularly before taking part in the research. They took aquatic classes one to five times a week doing a mixture of endurance and flexibility exercises for both the upper and lower body.
What the research tells us
Looks like all those “aquafit” fans are on to something: research evidence suggests that moderate to high intensity aquatic exercise is at least as effective as land-based exercise for improving strength, endurance, flexibility and physical function (1).
Another review also found modest evidence that aquatic exercise helps relieve pain, stiffness and other symptoms of osteoarthritis (2, 3).
Exercise is important for everyone and is a key to healthy aging, including preventing or slowing the progression of chronic conditions (4). The best type of exercise is one that you enjoy, as you are more likely to stick with it. So if you are someone who enjoys a splash in the pool, why not give aquatic exercise a try?
You don’t need to be a strong swimmer; in fact you don’t need to know how to swim at all. Kickboards, aquatic belts, water dumbbells and other equipment can help keep you buoyant and boost your workout. Sign up for a class and enjoy the added benefits of an enthusiastic instructor, group support, sometimes even music! Or if you’d prefer to go it alone, here are some pool exercises you can try: Slide show: Aquatic exercises