Franklin & Marshall College Franklin & Marshall College

May 2012 Wellness Tip

Using Water for Wellness

Community, fitness center and backyard pools are refreshing summer options for exercise.  Being active in water can increase flexibility and range of motion without putting stress on your joints and spine. It can also help relax your muscles.

You can walk and run in water, as well as jump or kick.  In water, the pull of gravity on the body is not as strong as on land, therefore motion and functional activity are more comfortable.  Water supports the body, reduces joint stress, and provides resistance and assistance to movement.  Other benefits include:  improved muscle strength and tone; reduced stress; decreased swelling; and increased circulation, cardiovascular function, strength, endurance, range of motion, flexibility, balance and coordination.

Some components of aquatic therapy and exercise that 'land based' activity may not offer: buoyancy (provides assistance and support), hydrostatic pressure (helps body circulate blood and decrease swelling) and resistance (allows for improvement in balance and strength in all muscle directions;  on land, resistance is felt in only one direction).
Tips for Exercising in Water
  • Consider working with a physical therapist or water aerobics instructor if you’ve never done water exercise before.
  • You can create more resistance by moving quickly. But start slowly, and gradually increase intensity. Walk in the water for a few minutes. Then you can start jogging.
  • The higher the water is on your body, the more resistance you feel. A water level between waist- and chest-high is a comfortable place to start. You get resistance but also have support and balance.
  • If you want to vary your intensity (interval training), sprint by raising your knees higher to run quickly. Move your arms up and down quickly at your side. Do this for 15 seconds. Then return to a slow jog or walk in the water.
  • Wear pool shoes or old athletic shoes. They will protect your feet if you’re walking or running along the bottom of the pool.
  • A flotation belt or "water wings" can create more resistance.
As always, talk to your doctor before you start an exercise program. You want to make sure that water exercise is right for your health condition.