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  • Andrea Cziprusz

The Benefits of Aquatic Exercise for Seniors

Aquatic exercise offers a unique opportunity to improve your fitness in a gravity-reduced environment. Water’s natural buoyancy can be a huge advantage for individuals with pain, weakness, or balance impairments. Not to mention, the viscosity of water provides resistance during exercise. The pool is a great place to improve strength, cardiovascular endurance, agility, and flexibility. Aquatic exercise has also been shown to decrease stress, improve sleep, increase metabolism, and even lower cholesterol levels. If you regularly attend a water aerobics class or meet a buddy to swim, you can also take advantage of the social benefits.

Benefits of aquatic exercise for special populations:

1. Arthritis/Chronic Pain

If you have chronic pain and/or arthritis and have limited tolerance of land-based exercise, the pool may be just what you need. If submerged in the water to chest level, the load on your joints is reduced by 80-90%. This means if you have a painful, arthritic knee, you are only loading that knee with 10-20% of your body weight. This dramatic reduction in load enables an individual to move more freely, reduces pain, and improves overall exercise tolerance.

2. Balance Impairments

Buoyancy is also a really helpful property for individuals that have balance issues. If you are unsteady or have a history of falls, exercising in the water can provide extra support. This support may enable you to try more challenging exercises that would otherwise be unsafe to try on land. The water also offers perturbations, or small forces, that can challenge balance. Recovering from these perturbations in a safe environment is a good way to improve balance reactions and reduce fall risk.

3. Post Injury/Surgery

If you are recovering from an injury (ie. ankle sprain) or rehabbing after surgery (ie. knee replacement) the water offers a great bridge to exercise. Aquatic therapy is an ideal environment for individuals who have limited weight-bearing tolerance or post-op restrictions, just make sure to get clearance from your doctor if you are post-op and caring for an incision.

Types of Aquatic Exercise:

You don’t have to know how to swim to do aquatic exercise! Water aerobic classes are designed for all skill levels. If you are not interested in doing a class, you can always head to the pool and try your own workout or just start with water walking. There are many options when it comes to exercising in the water.

Water Walking:

  • Forward, Backward, Side-stepping, Marching, Jogging

  • Keep your core muscles engaged.

  • Get your heart rate up be walking with pace.

Water Aerobics:

  • Aqua Zumba, Water Yoga, Aqua Aerobics, and Aqua Jog

  • Try different classes and see what works best for you.

Aqua Resistance Training:

  • Use the water’s natural resistance.

  • Add props like foam dumbbells, hand paddles, or a kick-board

Standing Lower Body Exercises:

  • Leg lifts (front, side, back)

  • Heel raises

  • Hamstring curls

  • Squats

Standing Upper Body Exercises:

  • Arm raises (front, side)

  • Chest fly

  • Biceps curls

  • Wall push-ups

Treading Water:

  • Flutter kicks, scissor kicks, bicycles

  • Deep water float for spinal decompression.

Aquatic exercise is versatile and can be scaled up or down easily depending on your level. Get over putting on the bathing suit and take the plunge. The benefits are worth the hassle!

Check out these routines for some fun ideas to get you started!

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