Swimming is one of the best workouts for adults. The sense of weightlessness you feel in the water can help you relieve aching muscles and stiff joints with more gentle resistance than “terrestrial” gym exercises—plus swimming is also great cardio!
However, just logging laps can be somewhat dull. And, what’s more, not everyone has the stamina or time to make that type of solitary aquatic activity count.
A better way to get fit in the pool is to try water aerobics—typically as part of an instructor-led class like those we offer here at Homestead Village in our modern 26’ x 52’ indoor therapy pool as well as our heated therapy pool.
Never tried an aquatics class and not sure what to expect? Today’s post shares some fun example exercises you can try on your own before joining your friends in class!
Water aerobics and so-called aquacise classes typically last between about 30 minutes and an hour, and the routines will follow a format that involves distinct phases to help you maximize fitness results without strain—warming up, actual exercising, and stretching/cooling down. The following are three top exercises to get you ready for the more vigorous activities to come.
This exercise is just as it sounds, and is meant to work your legs while getting your body acclimated to moving in the water. Lift knees high, but don’t worry about moving your arms too much yet. Marching in place is best done in shallower water that doesn’t come much above your waist, which is why it’s a great initial warmup move to begin just after entering the pool.
While there can be entire classes dedicated to just this type of pool exercise and involving specialized equipment like flotation belts and water shoes, jogging in place in the water is often used as a warm-up in other aquatics classes. It’s easy to do—simply work your arms and legs together as if you were jogging on land. You can also practice jogging a few steps forward and then walking backward to your starting point—just make sure to not run into others in the pool!
Depending on your fitness level, you can increase your pace, the duration of time you spend doing the exercise (1-5 minutes is usually satisfactory as a warm-up), and even the depth of water you’re in. For instance, if you jog in the shallow end of the pool (generally around 3 feet deep), you may move your arms above the water and mainly work your legs. For more advanced joggers, moving to a depth where your feet don’t touch the bottom and your arms are entirely submerged will be much more challenging.
To get your arms working more intentionally than with the previous two warm-ups, you’ll want to try this simple movement. (This is best performed in deeper water or done in a kneeling position in shallow water so that your arms are submerged.) Start with your arms at your sides and bend elbows 90 degrees. Keeping elbows bent, slowly raise and lower your arms toward the surface of the water for about 20-30 repetitions.
After warming up, your goal during any aquatics class or solo program will be to elevate your heart rate and get your blood pumping—this will ensure that you get the most out of your workout. And remember, the benefit of exercising under the guidance of a certified instructor is not having to worry about overdoing things and getting into moves that are too advanced for your current fitness level, which can be frustrating or even unhealthy.
Pool exercises are generally very easily customized to help you reach your individual fitness goals or aid in recovery from an injury. While the exercises described in this post should not be undertaken without talking to your rehabilitation doctor first, you will likely find that they can help you gain strength after a physical setback.
You’re probably familiar with jumping jacks, in which you move your arms up and down in coordination with moving your legs from a standing position and out to the sides while doing a little hop. These moves can be very jarring on dry land but are a great cardio exercise in the water. To adjust the move to make it a little easier, you can keep arms at your sides while just doing the hops and moving your legs.
In the water, you don’t need weights to get good resistance training. All you need is the side of the pool! Try holding on to the pool’s edge and alternate pulling and pushing your body with just your arms. Or, try kicking your legs (without creating too much splash!) while gripping the edge.
This article from Livestrong has even more ideas for resistance training in the pool without extra equipment.
Are you familiar with pool “noodles?” These colorful and flexible foam tubes are used—along with other special aquatic equipment like foam weights, webbed water gloves, and kickboards—to aid in making your water workout more effective. These are a couple of great exercises you can try with your pool noodle.
For a great exercise move that works your upper legs, lower legs, stomach, shoulders, and arms, you can use the noodle as a jump rope. It’s a challenging, but fun addition to any aquatics routine. Check out this how-to video from Swimming.org for a visual demonstration:
This exercise may sound like a new junk food more than a way to work out, but it’s effective for toning legs! You will need to tie your noodle in a knot and slip it over your foot—it will float your foot upwards, and your goal will be to move your foot back to the bottom of the pool to regain a standing position. Do about 10 reps and then switch feet.
A little bit like the warm-ups, your cool-down phase should help you return your heart rate to normal and focus on stretching out specific muscles you’ve worked with some additional, gentler moves.
The overall goal is to make sure that you keep moving so your heart rate can naturally slow, but you don’t get cold in the water, which can be unhealthy. Hopefully, you’ve worked up a sweat during your pool exercise routine!
You may be familiar with tai chi “on land,” and the movements associated with this practice can be some of the best for stretching out your arms, legs, shoulders, and core. Be sure to make your moves slow and fluid. Reach high above your head and gently bend knees and elbows a few times. You can even incorporate your pool noodle to help refine your movements!
Here at Homestead Village, we have all of the fitness resources and Life Enrichment activities that enhance your overall health both in and out of the pool! Ready to learn how we can help you THRIVE WHERE YOU ARE®?
Get in touch today to schedule a campus tour or simply ask us any question you have about retiring well.