Last one in the water is a ... Remember this challenge from your
childhood? For today's fitness-conscious adults, it has new meaning. Don't be
the last person to discover the new wave of water workouts -- for strength and
cardio training, flexibility, relaxation, rehabilitation, and weight
"We're seeing growth in both ends of the spectrum [of aquatic workouts],
from high-intensity exercises like kickboxing and circuit training to mind/body
workouts like ai chi, which combines tai chi and shiatsu massage," says
Julie See, president of the Aquatic Exercise Association (AEA) in Nokomis, Fla.
"We're working against a perception that aquatic exercise is just for old
people, not the young and fit. With younger people coming into the water, we're
starting to see a lot of sport-specific training and one-on-one personal
Jerry Wade used to love bird-watching with his wife, an avid birder.
"I'm not a birder myself, but I like being active and getting out there
with her," he says. "Bird-watching puts you into natural areas and some
rough terrain -- it's not an easy physical activity."
But in the fall of 2005, the 66-year-old Columbia, Mo., resident, who had
retired in 2000 from a career in community development, started noticing
"pains and twinges" in his knees. A visit to his doctor in January 2006
"If it's been a decade or more since you had a water fitness class,
you'll see many changes," says Jane Katz, EdD, associate professor of
health and physical education, City College of New York, and author of
Aquafit: Water Workouts for Total Fitness. "Back then it would have
been traditional skills of breathing, floating and swimming, which are still
taught today, but with the addition of stretching and vertical exercises"
done in a standing position.
Another difference, she says, is the abundance of exercise equipment. A lot
of landlubber gear has made its way to the pool: handheld weights, rubber
tubing, even bicycles and treadmills. Plus, the old aquatic stand-bys like fins
and kickboards are no longer "one-size-fits all." They're engineered in
a host of styles to suit specific applications.
Who Can Benefit From Water Exercise?
Water exercise can benefit virtually everyone, says Katz. A former Olympian,
she teaches fitness and swimming to New York City firefighters and police
officers and also has a special fondness for a class for women in their 60s,
70s, and 80s. Athletes use water to rehabilitate after injury or to
cross-train. People with arthritis or other disabilities that can’t perform
land exercise use water to improve fitness and range of motion and to relieve
pain and stiffness.
Age and physical condition aren't issues in the water. Kids love to play in
water without realizing it's good for them. Seniors who rely on a walker or
wheelchair on land can stand in water with the help of flotation belts and
water's buoyancy. Water exercises provide less stress on the bodies of pregnant
Also not at issue is the ability to swim: Most water workouts consist of
exercise done in a vertical position (with the bonus of keeping your hair
Water's buoyancy accommodates both the fit and unfit. Water cushions stiff
and painful joints or fragile bones that might be injured by the impact of land
exercises. When immersed to the waist, your body bears just 50% of its weight;
immersed to the chest, it's 25%-35%; and to the neck, 10%. In addition, says
See, the lower gravity promotes the return of blood to the heart from the