Staying Fit

5 Tips for Water Workouts

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By Christina Eyers, Ed.D., AT, ATC

As temperatures creep into the triple digits and humidity levels soar, hitting the pool or beach offers some welcome relief from the heat. Not only does getting wet help you feel refreshed, it burns calories to boot – perhaps even more than if you exercised in an air-conditioned gym.

Water workouts are easy on the joints while offering a heart-pumping workout. In fact, research suggests that people who exercise in the water burn as much fat and build as much muscle as those who stick with land-based fitness regimens. Sometimes the calorie burn is more intense in water. Why is that? Water provides 12 to 15 times more resistance than air. And it doesn’t stress your joints, making it especially appropriate for those recovering from an injury, people with joint problems, and seniors.

You don’t have to swim laps to get the benefits of working out in water. Paddleboarding, water aerobics or even a competitive game of water polo all offer extraordinary benefits. From moves you can do on your own to high-energy games for the whole family, here are five ways to get fit and stay cool.

  1. Vary your strokes. If you’re swimming laps, consider mixing up your strokes for maximum benefit. Start with the butterfly or freestyle and move on to the backstroke or breaststroke. Varying swim strokes allows you to work your chest, upper back and shoulders.
  1. Practice aqua jogging. Running in water is similar to ground running, at least in terms of the muscles required to move. While some experts recommend using a flotation belt until you get acclimated, my advice is to skip it – unless you can’t swim. You’ll get a better workout without the belt and learn to maintain proper posture during exercise.
  1. Try water aerobics. Whether you tread water or do a set of jumping jacks while submerged in H2O, water aerobics can get your heart pumping without compromising your joints. You can even use water dumbbells, which push the water back and forth, to add resistance to your workout.
  1. Have fun at the lake. Bored with the pool? Take to the ocean, lake or river to shake up your fitness regimen. Body surf in the ocean, paddleboard on the lake and brave the rapids of the river. Not only will the varying activities prevent boredom, they’ll also work different muscle groups. Just be sure to be safe – pay attention to any posted warnings about swimming conditions, choose a beach with a lifeguard on duty when possible, wear life jackets
  1. Play water sports. Some sports — like swimming and water polo — are obvious matches if you’re in a pool. But any sport played in the water offers a welcome respite from the heat. Put up a net and you can play volleyball or basketball. Braving the pool with your kids? Try a game of Marco Polo to keep the whole family fit.

No matter which water workout you choose, don’t forget to stay hydrated – especially if it’s warm outside. Immersing yourself in water tends to confuse our natural thirst cues, so don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink up. And as with any outdoor activity, protect yourself from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Wear a broad-brimmed hat and swim shirt and slather on a generous amount of sunscreen every few hours.

You can also read more nutrition and fitness advice in our EatWell and MoveWell sections, so subscribe to get all the latest tips.

Written By:

Christina Eyers, Ed.D., AT, ATC

Christina Eyers, Ed.D., AT, ATC, leads athletic training at Henry Ford’s Center for Athletic Medicine in Detroit. Educated at the University of Michigan, University of Alabama and Central Michigan University, Christina became a certified athletic trainer because as a young girl sport was big influence in her life. Pursuing a career in athletic medicine allowed her to continue that passion while helping others. Christina has also served as president for the Michigan Athletic Trainers Society and co-authored research in the Journal of Physical Education, Recreation and Dance. Christina’s dream vacation spot is on a remote beach in Tahiti with no phone or connection to the outside world - just a week of sun, surf and beach!

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