You might simply think of your swimming pool as a backyard oasis when the temperatures are soaring and you need to cool off. What many people are finding, however, is that their pool can not only provide you a break from the heat, it can also be a cornerstone of your physical fitness program. Regardless of your fitness goals, there are many health benefits to exercising in your pool.
The benefits of working out in a pool
Fitness trainers love pool workouts for a couple of different reasons. The first reason is it’s much easier on your joints. For people with arthritis or other joint problems, the buoyancy of water can ease the strain on joints. Many arthritis patients do physical therapy in water as warm water relaxes the muscles and reduces stress on the joints to encourage movement. Even if you don’t have arthritis or joint problems, the warmth and buoyancy can allow even the most competitive athletes to exercise at greater ranges of motion than they can without the benefits of water.
An ideal temperature for vigorous exercising in water (based on a study by the University of Washington) is between 83 and 88 degrees Fahrenheit. Higher temperatures (such as your typical spa) can be okay for gentle movements, but is not recommended for more strenuous exercise. Interestingly, the temperature benefit actually works two ways with the temperature. An extended workout in 90 degree weather (running for example) can be very hard on the body. However, this target temperature range will also help cool you down as you exert yourself in typically high summer temperatures.
The second major benefit to exercising in water is resistance. While many may think of exercising in a pool as something strictly for swimmers or gentle exercises for seniors, some of the most explosive athletes in the world utilize pools and water resistance in their training regimens. Some training regimens include plyometric activities in a pool. These high impact movements can be particularly hard on joints, but with the added buoyancy and warmth, an athlete can perform these movements with more “warmed up” muscles, reduced impact and the added resistance of water. As a matter of fact, mixed martial arts fighters like BJ Penn began posting videos of themselves demonstrating their leaping ability out of pools on Youtube and it became a minor sensation (just Google BJ Penn pool jump if you want to see how wildly popular that video was).
The other unique thing about a pool workout is the nature of the resistance. Much like using free weights engages more muscles by forcing you to stabilize the weight, water provides an even more engaging form of resistance. Water adds the unique facet of “continuous resistance” as every movement requires your muscles to work against water pressure.
In truth, there’s a water workout for nearly everyone. Many different health resources have petitioned their own water workouts for varying audiences. Prevention Magazine put together what they call the Hydro Belly Blaster routine which targeted women, while a site like bodybuilding.com has a routine that simulates free weight training routines in the pool. If the hardcore workout mavens at bodybuilding.com see the value of exercising in the pool, maybe it’s time you start looking at your pool as a tool to improve your fitness as well.