Get Moving: Health benefits of water aerobics

Ronnie Phelps
Ronnie Phelps

Water exercise is one of the best fitness activities in which to participate. Water fitness helps to build cardio, strengthen muscle and toning while being easy on the joints.

Here are the Top 10 health benefits from Health Fitness Revolution and author Samir Becic of the book, "ReSYNC Your Life."

Increase muscle strength - Water is a flowing and constantly changing product of nature, and as such can be very unpredictable in its movements. Since water flows in multiple directions, the resistance in the pool can range from four to 42 times greater than air ensuring the body's muscles get a rigid workout. In fact, a study conducted in 2007 found after 12 weeks of regular aquatic aerobic exercise, participants had made significant gains in strength, flexibility and agility.

Build endurance - Unlike traditional weights, which require the human body to push and pull against the weight plus gravity, water resistance is a more natural resistance that requires the body to strain through the water than against it.

Increase flexibility - As the body is subject to water resistance during water aerobic exercise - which requires movement in various directions while adjusting to the push and pull of water - the joints naturally increase in flexibility after subjecting a group of older adults to aerobic therapy exercise.

Low impact exercise - We may not often think of it, but the traditional impact we place on our joints during a "land workout" can be taxing. In water aerobics, the buoyancy of the water helps take off some of the impact we tend to place on our body, due to our own water weight. In layman's terms, our body is not subject to gravity in the water, therefore the impact our joints take on when running in water is not equal to the impact when running on land. This is particularly appealing to those with joint conditions such as arthritis or those currently undergoing physical rehabilitation.

Alleviates pressure on the joints - Studies have shown water-based exercises such as water aerobics relive pressure placed on joints from normal wear and tear, and arthritis. In fact, hydrotherapy is shown to be the leading form of therapy for those suffering from joints problems.

Relives stress and decreases anxiety - Watching bodies of water in motion can be one of the most soothing activities one can take part in to help relieve stress, which is why vacations to beaches and island paradises are so popular getaways. But being in the water can be just as relaxing.

Burns calories - The combination of strength and cardio mixed with water resistance in aquatic exercise ensures the body is getting a full workout.

Reduces blood pressure - Water resistance is not just a buoyancy feature to help work the muscles. In fact, the water pressure actually works with your blood as well and enables one's blood flow to circulate more effectively throughout the body, effectively decreasing blood pressure and, in the long run, decreasing resting heart rate. This benefit means your heart is maintaining its productivity while putting less stress in your heart.

Cooling exercise - As temperatures get warmer and the summer heat draws near, the desire to exercise in the burning sun may suddenly not seem so appealing, so naturally dipping into any body of water becomes alluring. Water aerobics can satisfy that need to feel cool in warmer temperatures while still enabling an athlete to exercise. It's cool, crisp and refreshing, especially knowing you aren't struggling in the heat.

Popular activity - Water aerobics is not limited to any age group or skill level. As a result, water aerobics is known to be one of the most popular bonding activities for friends and family. The sport appeals to all ages - with younger generations naturally enjoying the fun to be had in swimming pools while still appealing to the older generations and their need to maintain a moderate level of physical fitness.

Ronnie Phelps is an aquatics director at the Jefferson City YMCA. Phelps is also an American Red Cross LGIT/WSIT, Y-USA aquatics trainer and YMCA/USA swim coach.