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‘Water’ you waiting for?

Experts say exercising in H2O offers benefits land-based workouts don’t

Created date

February 12th, 2016
Aqua Aerobics class at Charlestown
Aqua Aerobics class at Charlestown

The indoor swimming pool didn’t initially factor into Pat Ward’s decision to move to Charlestown. But as it turns out, it’s now one of her favorite amenities at the Catonsville, Md., Erickson Living community she calls home. 

For the last three years, Pat has been leading an hour-long water aerobics class five days a week at Charlestown. 

“I wanted to start exercising, so I joined a water aerobics class being taught by another Charlestown resident,” says Pat. “When she was no longer able to teach the class, I volunteered to take over.”

Water workout

The free classes are held in Charlestown’s 75- by 30-foot pool, part of the recently expanded 6,000-square-foot aquatics center that also features a separate therapy pool with a treadmill and a hot tub. 

Pat leads a variety of stretching and aerobic exercises in chest-high water designed to strengthen and increase muscle tone. 

“It’s great exercise. I’ve had many people in the class tell me they feel great afterward,” says Pat.

Before moving to Charlestown four years ago, Sue and William Morrison took aqua aerobics classes at the Y. Now they attend Pat’s class two to three days a week.

“The pool was one of the amenities we liked about Charlestown,” says Sue. “We started taking aqua aerobics classes because we wanted to stay active and keep the old bones moving. I feel like since taking the classes we don’t get tired as quickly and we can move our arms and legs more freely. At the end of the class, we really feel like we got a good workout.”

There’s a good reason Sue feels that way. Exercising in water offers 12 to 14 times more resistance than exercising on land, according to the U.S. Water Fitness Association.  

The Aquatic Exercise Association reports that you can expect to burn 400 to 500 calories per hour of exercising in the water. And they note simple devices such as hand-held paddles, foam noodles and rings, and kickboards can add further resistance to increase the intensity of an aquatic workout.

Easy does it

Another unique advantage that you can’t get on land is buoyancy. Buoyancy dramatically reduces the impact your body sustains by taking the load off your joints, which may explain why people suffering from osteoporosis, arthritis, hip and knee problems, fibromyalgia, and even multiple sclerosis benefit from water exercises.

Buoyancy varies according to the depth of the water you are in. For example, when exercising in water up to your neck, your body bears approximately 10% of your total body weight; 25% to 35% of your weight when the water is up to your chest, and 50% in waist-high water.

“I think a lot of the people like the class because it is low impact,” says Pat. “You can do a lot of things like jumping jacks and jogging in the pool without it jarring your body like you would on land. Plus, there is no risk of falling when you are in the pool.”

The water also offers a continuous cooling effect, making it less likely you’ll get overheated or dehydrated. 

The pool is also the perfect opportunity to have fun in the fellowship of others. Charlestown Wellness Manager Teresa Reymann oversees the fitness and aquatics center and says the pool offers something for everyone. 

“There are a variety of different ways to exercise in the water,” says Reymann. “Residents can take part in aquatics classes, swim laps, play volleyball, do water walking—they all provide great cardio exercises for the heart, and the water allows you to attempt full range of motion movements with your muscles. Of course, if you just want to splash around with your grandkids, that’s fine, too.” 

Pat says, at the end of the day, aqua aerobics is like any exercise routine in that you get out of it what you put into it. 

“It is a commitment and you have to make the effort, but everyone really seems to love it,” says Pat. “I would have to agree. Exercising in the pool is a lot of fun, and it doesn’t really feel like exercise because you are with friends having a good time. I’ve always been active and have been able to maintain that active lifestyle here at Charlestown. The pool was an extra bonus.”