Water is one of the most important resources on the planet. Covering about three quarters of the earth’s surface, water not only nourishes life but it can also help preserve yours as you age. Water exercises, such as water aerobics and swimming, have been proven to be one of the best forms of exercise for the elderly because of water’s many benefits. Not only are water exercises enormously challenging and thorough, but they are also accessible to anyone regardless of their fitness level, physical mobility and weight. Water fitness can be the perfect activity for anyone from athletes to the elderly and even rehabilitation patients and the obese. All that is required to enjoy all the benefits water has to offer is an enthusiasm for fitness, a willingness to work hard and a longing to get in the water and get wet!
Water aerobics and water fitness can take on many forms and can be tailored to any fitness level. It can be preformed in the shallow or deep end, depending on your fitness goals and level. The exercises can include anything from water stretching to strengthening exercises and often includes a cardio and aerobic component. There is even a new exercise called Ai Chi, which is an aquatic version of Tai Chi. With so many workout regimes and fitness activities to pick from, it is almost impossible not to find a program that applies to your taste and works with your fitness level and goals.
What makes water activities so beneficial to seniors and accessible to all levels is the combination of water’s buoyancy and resistance. The buoyancy of the water allows for less weight-bearing stress. It thus minimizes stress on joints, bones and soft tissue and can reduce the impact of jumping. The buoyancy also supports our weight. 50% of your body weight is supported when submerged waist deep while 90% is supported when neck deep. This decreases stress on the spine and back and allows people with physical disabilities, such as patients recovering from surgery or patients with chronic issues, a lot more mobility than would normally be accessible to them on land. It can be quite a liberating experience to move like you could once in your youth without the danger of injury.
Although the water supports your weight and reduces undue stress on your body, this in no way leads to a less strenuous or less effective workout. In fact, because of water’s resistance, water exercises can be even more challenging than their land-based counterparts. The water adds more resistance than air, meaning that the same workout will work your muscles harder in the water thereby allowing you to build more muscle strength and endurance. You are also constantly engaging your core muscles in an attempt to stabilize yourself against the turbulence of water, which will improve your balance. The University of New Mexico believes that seniors have the most to gain from the resistance of water, as it will improve their overall fitness.
On top of the added benefits that water gives, water aerobics can offer many other standard health and physical benefits. Aquatic workouts can improve your flexibility, strength, and endurance while decreasing your body fat and strengthening your heart and lungs. Water aerobics can also prevent and help combat many illnesses. It can help patients struggling with arthritis reduce their chronic pain and it can lower your risk of cancer and heart disease. Water aerobics can also have a positive affect on your mental health. According to The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “exercising in warm water relaxes muscles, decreasing depression, anxiety and stress and thus improving your mood” (The Benefits of Aquatic Exercise).
Perhaps the most beneficial advantage of all would be the freedom and self-confidence that water activities foster. Because of the buoyancy of water, people who have trouble physically on land can find new self-confidence in their movements because of the freedom of mobility that water offers. Water activities have no age barrier or weight restriction allowing them to be enjoyed by everyone. While the health benefits are enormous, the real gain is the fun and freedom that opens up to you once you incorporate water aerobics and water fitness into your life.