Spending time in the pool can be relaxing, it can be refreshing, and it can just be fun. But it can also be wonderful exercise. As compared to other kinds of workouts, it’s easier on your joints and bones, and the buoyancy you have in the water allows you to do moves you could never manage on dry land. Aquatic exercise burns fat fast and it can also be soothing for sore muscles and more serious conditions like arthritis and fibromyalgia.
What’s more, it’s easy to find places to do it. If you’re lucky enough to have your own pool or access to one where you live – and the weather is compliant – all you’ve got to do is jump right in. Otherwise, whether it’s called water aerobics, aquatics, aqua fitness, or goes by some other name, you can find classes at your local community pool, gym, and YWCA or Family YMCA.
The only equipment you need is a swimsuit. A perfect one should be chlorine-resistant, like TYR swimsuits, and fit you comfortably with good coverage. This isn’t the time for string bikinis or suits cut down to there. You want to be free to move and not worry about anything except how healthy you’re getting.
Now to the exercises:
When you swim laps you work out your whole body with benefits to both your strength and your cardio health. It’s also a way to keep exercising when other forms of exertion are too taxing, as when you’re recovering from an injury or if you’re well along in a pregnancy.
In addition, swimming is a stress-buster because when you’re submerged in the water you’re removed from a lot of the sensory stimuli that bombard you on land. You can forget about gravity and let your cares float away.
There’s no need to race, either, unless you want to. Take long strokes and breathe through your mouth every two strokes (three if you want to rotate sides) so you don’t wear yourself out. And mix up your routine with the standard crawl or freestyle, the backstroke, breast stroke, sidestroke, and butterfly so you work all your muscles. Take a few slow laps to warm up, and when you’re finished, do the same to cool down and stretch out.
Legs and Abs
Do sets of a a variety of these exercises to tone your lower body and strengthen your abs:
- Scissor kicks: Float back with your arms on the edge of the pool, point your toes, and move your legs far apart from each other and then back together like a pair of scissors until one ankle is crossing the other. Doing this quickly will intensify work on your quads and inner thighs.
- Double leg lift: Lean back on the pool edge, lower your legs straight down, and then keeping them straight and together, lift them as high as you can. It’s a good workout because you’ll be doing it against the resistance of the water.
- Side leg lift: Still leaning back on the pool’s edge, swing each leg sideways in turn like the pendulum of a clock, bringing it up as high as you can to work your outer thigh.
- Bicycle: It’s the same motion that you’d do out of the water, but doing it in the pool adds extra work for your core.
- Flutter kick: Now turn over, hold on to the edge of the pool and kick your legs behind you, keeping them under the water. Faster is better than higher for this one, and splashing isn’t the point.
- Frog leap: In a part of the pool where you can start this exercise with your head just above the water, arrange yourself as in a ballet plié with your heels together, legs bent outward, and your bottom tucked under. Then jump as high out of the water as you can, and return in the same plié position.
Do sets of these exercises to tone your shoulders and arms:
- Bicep curls and lateral raises: You can do these with pool weights or even pool noodles. Keep your shoulders and arms under the water to take full advantage of the resistance it adds.
- Pull-ups: Stake out the pool ladder for these. Facing the ladder, grasp it and pull yourself straight up out of the water. Grasp with your palms facing you to work your biceps; your palms facing outward will work your back, lats, and shoulders. Just be mindful of other people who may want to use the ladder to actually get out of the pool.