Friday, February 23, 2018

Turn Up the Heat without Breaking a Sweat

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by Michelle Sutton-Kerchner

Temperatures are on the rise, but don’t sweat the heat. Take your workouts to the pool, whether at the Center or vacationing at a far-flung resort …

Now is the time to create your summer workout program. A water workout routine meets summer’s requirements: It’s cool and refreshing. It travels with you, practiced everywhere from beach to backyard. And, one of the coolest benefits– The more you wear your swimsuit for this purpose, the better it looks on you.

Unfortunately, aquatic workouts are often only explored by human “fish” and those with an injury or joint issues. Yet, the water provides an ideal environment for cardio and strength training. You don’t need to be Michael Phelps to experience the intensity created by water’s resistance. Equally, the gentleness created by water’s buoyancy can benefit older adults, especially those suffering from arthritis.

It may not be the first fitness tool that comes to mind, but water works. Research proves circuit-based water fitness programs significantly increase study participants’ oxygen consumption levels. Cardiovascular fitness is one of the biggest gains of water fitness. Participants also reduced their waist circumferences and waist-to-hip ratios.

Enhance the water’s ability to strength train by using water weights, noodles, and belts. Incorporate these tools to boost your caloric burn. The Aquatic Exercise Association indicates up to 500 calories can be zapped in a one-hour water aerobics routine. Sessions should include running, jumping, and stretching with weights or a belt. Water adds resistance so repetitions can be decreased, making this a great workout when short on time.

Reducing Pain, Increasing Muscle

Increase intensity, not joint stress. Step aerobics in the water.
Increase intensity, not joint stress. Step aerobics in the water.

Symptoms association with health conditions like arthritis and osteoporosis often restrict strength training and stretching. Straining joints from high-impact activity on land can exacerbate chronic pain. However, training in the water eliminates the physical stress common in resistance training. Muscles can be worked in ways that would otherwise pound on joints and bones.

Often, aquatic therapy is recommended for patients with arthritis. Warm water soothes aches and the buoyancy reduces strain on joints and bones. The Center’s extensive aquatic offerings include therapeutic programs. Surrounded by water, the body is relieved of stiffness. The entire skeleton is supported. Arthritic swimmers can more easily move their joints through the full range-of-motion. (Defining the term “fluid” movements.) While treating symptoms in the comfort of water, the exerciser simultaneously strengthens to help heal the cause.

When experiencing a flare-up, schedule your workout at a time of day most comfortable for you. If you tend to wake stiff and sore, delay exercise until later. If your body aches after a day spent at a desk or behind the wheel, try an earlier workout. Keep in mind though, water workouts tend to soothe aches, relieve swelling, and decrease joint pain.

Take advantage of the Center’s heated spa pool with a soak before your fitness program. If performing your water workout elsewhere, apply heating pads to sore areas before diving in. Post-workout, apply ice to prevent any inflammation and soreness.

Build endurance gradually. You may emerge from the water feeling like you haven’t broken a sweat. Exertion may not be as obvious as on land. Be assured you did manage a workout. You should feel satisfactorily fatigued and possibly a little sore. Actual pain indicates you’ve done too much. Allow additional recuperation time before your next workout. Check in with a trainer to determine where you might have over-reached. If pain persists, see your physician.

The need for arthritis-friendly workouts is not limited to the elderly. Experts believe obesity contributes to the rapid increase in arthritis of today’s younger population. Excess body weight is a major risk factor, especially on weight-bearing joints, such as the knees and hips. Two-thirds of those currently diagnosed with arthritis are actually younger than 65 years. Water workouts aren’t just for grandparents!

A Workout Plan

Water: Nature's fitness tool.
Water: Nature’s fitness tool.

Begin with a warm-up, which may take longer in the water, especially if the pool isn’t heated or the air temp is cool. Spend at least five minutes walking around the pool or gently swimming laps. Once initial stiffness subsides, make a bigger splash with an aerobic/strengthening combo. Beginners safely can start with 10 minutes of cardio and five minutes of resistance. Increase to 45 and 15 minutes, respectively.

Consider taking a training session in the Center’s pool with one of the aquatic-certified trainers. S/he can demonstrate exercises that target upper body, lower body, and your core. Enjoy a Group Fitness aquatic class. Determine your favorite moves and replicate them when you’re elsewhere this summer. Any pool visit becomes an opportunity to burn off the burgers and margaritas.  Many of the moves can be done discreetly.

You don’t need to be a superstar swimmer to strengthen heart and lungs. Running and jumping in the water is as effective, especially when your body is submerged up to shoulder level. You’ll quickly reach your maximum heart rate. Tip: Use water shoes so feet stay solidly gripped to the ground. This prevents slips and also eliminates excess strain on calf muscles (not often felt until feet are firmly planted back on solid ground).

Along with your cardio workout, regardless of weights or tools, you still manage the benefits of weight training. Every movement meets the water’s gentle, but firm resistance to continuously build muscle.

Standard exercise often can be executed in the pool, sometimes with a little extra oomph.  Try basic kicks, which work your buttocks, hamstrings, and abs. Pull-ups tackle the arms, back, and shoulders. Mimic crunches to focus on your core. Stretches done on land can be mimicked as well. If you have a free-weight program, take it to the water or waves.

Spend time cooling down. In addition to a shift in heart rate, your body also must endure a shift in temperature. Slow down movement, stretching as you go. Walk around in the water for five to 10 minutes. Gradually transform from water creature to land rover.


Risk for injury is minimized in water, but you still need to be cautious. Continue to check posture to assure your abs are tucked and supporting your spine. Avoid extremes when stretching. It may seem easier to stretch in water, but try to keep the same boundaries you have on land. Despite the gravitational pull, to which you grow accustom, keep weight evenly distributed.

Surrounded by water, we often forget to hydrate. Unlike a thirst-building fitness routine on land, we tend not to notice thirst as much during aquatic exercise. Dehydration is always a risk after physical exertion, especially during hot, humid weather. Pack enough water to sufficiently hydrate through your workout and time spent poolside or by the ocean. The old saying is perhaps proved again during summertime: Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink. Be sure to bring your own to hydrate throughout the day.

big splash, little boy, picIt’s the season for water play. You don’t need to be a swimmer to have an enjoyable aquatic experience. With a little planning, you can accomplish a workout with overflowing benefits. Hot weather and fluctuating summer schedules don’t have to beach your fitness routine. Keep yourself in motion with a gentle workout that delivers intense results.




Image Credits

Aquatic strength:

Step aerobics:


Big splash:

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