The days of simply swimming up and down the lanes in your local pool are numbered.
A new range of exercises designed specifically to be performed in the water are being launched all over Britain. Experts say they can help you lose weight, beat cellulite and tone up faster than ordinary exercises.
From the gentle aqua Pilates to the more energetic aqua jogging – said to be a favourite with Jennifer Aniston – aqua-exercises have become the latest trend in fitness regimes.
Why exercise in the water?
The major benefit to exercising in the water is the protection it offers for your joints.
‘When you do an exercise on land, like jogging, you get an impact on your joints,’ says Torben Hersborg, an osteopath from the Central London Osteopathy and Sports Injury Clinic. ‘But when you exercise in the water, you don’t have any gravity forcing your body weight down onto your joints.’
If you go running, it is one of the most high impact exercises you could choose. Every time your foot hits the pavement, a shock equivalent to five times your body weight will travel up your legs and into your spine.
Most marathon runners are roughly one centimetre shorter when they finish the race. This is because the repetitive shock motion in jogging causes the muscles in the legs, neck and back to tighten, which compresses the vertebrae in the spine.
Exercising in water eliminates this shock impact, protecting your joints. Experts believe that the buoyancy of the water can reduce the impact on your joints by over 85 per cent.
Many athletes often train in water when they are recovering from an injury so they can still train their muscles but without putting extra stress on a weak joint.
Do you get a better workout?
Just because exercising in water is softer on joints does not mean it is a softer workout.
Working out in water means your muscles are forced to work harder, burning more fat and toning them up faster than land-based exercises. This is because they are fighting the water every time they move.
‘Every movement you make in the water means you are fighting against its resistance,’ says Torben Hersborg. ‘You get a much more intense workout than you would by exercising ordinarily.’
Jogging on dry land will only burn up approximately six calories per minute. But aqua jogging can burn over 11 calories a minute, giving you a better workout.
The extra pressure of the water on your legs also pushes more blood back up into the top half of your body. This makes your heart work harder, raising your heartbeat and burning even more calories during your water workout.
Aqua-exercises also have a cooling effect on the body. Because you are working out in the water, your body is not sweating as much to cool the muscles down. This means there is less chance of you becoming dehydrated during your workout.
However, it is still important to drink plenty of fluids before, during and after your workout to make sure you are not risking dehydration. You may be more dehydrated than you realise because the water has been keeping you cool. Your instructor will be able to advise you on the right amount to drink.
Can anyone do aqua-exercises?
Aqua-exercises are ideal for somebody returning to exercising after an injury or a long period of inactivity because they are so gentle on your joints.
They are also recommended for older people as the water gives them greater movement and flexibility than they would have on dry land.
New mums and those with lower back problems can also benefit from aqua-exercises as the water supports them, taking pressure off the spine.
You do not have to be an Olympic swimmer to take part in aqua-exercises either. The majority of aqua-exercises take place in water no deeper than chest height and your feet will always be able to touch the floor. Some of the exercises could even help boost your confidence in the water, improving your swimming technique.
If you are pregnant or suffer from arthritis, you must mention this to your instructor before beginning any aqua-exercises.
Pregnancy can cause some of the joints to become more mobile – particularly in the pelvis – so you can injure yourself if you are not careful. Arthritis sufferers can also damage their joints if they push them too strenuously.
If you are starting a new exercise regime, it is important to see your doctor for a check up. They will advise you of any problems or risks you could face in your new exercise regime.
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