A dip in the pool can be much more than a chance to beat the summer heat! Whether you're swimming laps, performing aqua aerobics or simply splashing around with friends, water activities are a fun and effective way to improve strength, flexibility and an overall sense of well-being.
Water workouts are ideal for those with medical conditions like arthritis, back pain or joint problems because water helps support body weight. The deeper the water, the more weight it supports…and the more stress is taken off joints and muscles.
And because water provides more resistance than air, aqua exercises can help you tone your muscles without having to lift heavy weights. Plus, water workouts improve flexibility, since you can achieve a wider range of motion underwater than on land.
Two Light & Tasty subscribers experienced these benefits and more when they combined pool festivities with physical fitness.
Aqua Aerobics Adventure
"When I was diagnosed with diabetes, my doctor suggested that I start exercising," writes Thea Underhill of Lake Havasu City, Arizona.
"I've always loved the water, so I thought aqua aerobics might be the key. Luckily, my friend Barb found a videotape of a water-based workout
and encouraged 13 of our friends to give it a try at a community pool."
Thea's gang reviewed the exercise tape before grabbing their swimsuits, slapping on sunscreen and attempting the 40-minute routine in the water.
"The workout uses foam tubes called swimming noodles, so we named ourselves 'The Noodle Heads'," she says with a chuckle.
"The first time we got into the water, we were quite clumsy with our noodles and found it difficult to push them against the water's resistance. But as awkward as things were, everyone was able to perform the exercises—even those folks with knee and hip problems.
"Aqua aerobics soon became a social event for us. It was so much fun that we increased the number of times we got together, and the routine became easier each time we met.
"Currently, we work out 5 days a week, and we all feel better for it. I have more energy, and along with healthy food choices, I've been able to keep my blood sugar where it should be."
Rosemarie Gawron also uses a pool to keep fit—only she happened upon her favorite aqua activity by accident.
"My husband, Louis, and I have a sports pool," notes the Homosassa, Florida reader. "While we were swimming one day, we started hitting a beach ball back and forth as if we were playing volleyball. Even though I have arthritis and a bad leg, I had no problem jumping or reaching for the ball."
The couple took to their new game so much that Louis used plastic piping to create a net-like barrier in the middle of the pool.
"We began inviting other couples over for games of 'Aqua Ball', as we named it," says Rosemarie. "That was several years ago. Ten of us still get together to play today—including a friend who has had a heart transplant."
When the group meets, the players gently toss the ball around as a warm-up. They then complete four games and take a break before hitting the pool again for another four or five rounds.
"I have such a good time playing Aqua Ball that I forget I'm exercising," adds Rosemarie. "Most important, the games help keep my blood pressure down…and my self-confidence up."