Looking for a great summer workout? Leave your gym shoes in the closet and turn to water exercises instead. Swimming and walking is becoming increasingly popular, with classes popping up across the country – and for good reason, says Vennie Jones, aquatic coordinator for the Baylor Tom Landry Fitness Center in Dallas.
Like all water exercises, water walking is easy on the joints. “The water’s buoyancy supports the body’s weight, which reduces stress on the joints and minimizes pain,” says Jones. “And it’s still a great workout. Water provides 12 times the resistance of air, so as you walk, you’re really strengthening and building muscle.” You do not bear weight while swimming and walking, however, so you’ll still need to add some bone-building workouts to your routine.
You can walk in either the shallow end of the pool or the deep end, using a flotation belt. The deeper the water, the more strenuous your workout. And if you fall in love with swimming and walking, you can keep going in cooler months – just switch to an indoor heated pool.
What you need: For deep-water walking, a flotation belt keeps you upright and floating at about shoulder height.
How it works: You’ll stand about waist- to chest-deep in water, unless you’re deep-water walking. “You walk through the water the same way you would on the ground,” says Jones. Try walking backward and sideways to tone other muscles.
Try it: Stand upright, with shoulders back, chest lifted and arms bent slightly at your sides. Slowly stride forward, placing your whole foot on the bottom of the pool (instead of just your tiptoes), with your heel coming down first, then the ball of your foot. Avoid straining your back by keeping your core (stomach and back) muscles engaged as you walk.
Add intensity: Lifting your knees higher helps boost your workout. You also can do interval training – pumping arms and legs faster for a brief period, then returning to your normal pace, repeating the process several times.
Find a class: If you’re new to water exercises, an instructor can make sure your form is correct, says Jones. Plus, it can be fun to walk with others. To find a class near you, call your local YMCA, fitness center or Arthritis Foundation office.
Don’t forget the water: By exercising in a pool during the hot months, you’ll avoid problems that can accompany other outdoor summer workouts, such as heat exhaustion and dehydration. But you still need to drink water – even while keeping cool in the pool.