Water is a great healer. You can’t beat the feeling of sinking into a hot bath on a cold winter’s night or dipping into a cooling swimming pool in the height of summer. That said, its benefits extend much further than that and it’s great for physiotherapy.
Aquatic exercise is often used to help with muscle strains and mobility issues. It has proven particularly beneficial for seniors and is also used by many sports physiotherapists to help athletes recovering from serious injuries.
Benefits of Aquatic Exercise for Seniors
Water exercises can provide seniors with numerous health benefits, assisting with your joints, muscles, and even your mind. You don’t need to push yourself too hard and you don’t even need to spend a lot of the time in the pool. That’s the great thing about it.
Here are a few of the benefits of aquatic exercise:
It Improves Strength
Aquatic exercise is a form of resistance exercise, with the water providing the resistance. When you apply resistance to basic bodily movements, you force the muscles to work a little harder, and this helps them to grow.
When you hear “muscle growth,” your mind might go to bodybuilders and strength athletes, but it’s not all about getting big muscles and looking like a Greek god or goddess. A stronger core improves your balance, increases your injury resistance, and makes you more physically able.
It doesn’t matter how strong you were in your youth. Unless you’ve been training every day, a lot of that strength will have disappeared.
Not only can aquatic exercises provide complete resistance for all body movements, but that resistance increases the quicker you move. If you’re quite fit and strong, therefore, you can add a little pace to proceedings and get an intense full-body workout!
It Improves Flexibility and Reduces Pain
Along with your strength, your agility and flexibility will also improve. Flexibility can be improved with practice—the more you move, the more flexible you will become.
All that movement will get the blood flowing and the muscles relaxed. If you suffer from joint pain and chronic inflammation, regular water exercise can help. It’s important not to overdo it and cause an injury, however, and to make sure you stick with your limits.
It Counts as Your Daily Exercise
Water exercises count toward your weekly exercise requirement. Government recommendations state that seniors need at least 2.5 hours of moderate exercise a week, which includes anything that increases your heart rate and leaves you slightly tired afterward.
If you exercise just 5 days a week, that equates to only 30 minutes a day. It’s also much better than a walk, because not only will it exercise more of your body, but you’ll feel better doing it and you can have some fun in the pool!
It Improves Heart Health
Regular exercise reduces your risk of heart disease, which is one of the biggest killers in the United States and something that impacts elderly people the most. Of course, it’s important not to overdo it and put unnecessary strain on your heart, but a few minutes of moderate exercise here and there will do you a world of good.
If you are concerned about preexisting heart conditions, consult with your physician before beginning any exercise program.
It’s Low Risk
Exercise in general is very low risk. Besides being bundled over by a stray bull or encountering a hungry mountain lion, there’s very little risk involved with a leisurely stroll on the countryside.
At the same time, if you live in a busy built-up area, that risk increases substantially, and you’ll be exposed to a lot of pollution throughout that walk. As for cycling, you’re always one fall away from suffering a serious injury.
Where aquatic exercises are concerned, the risks are minimal. It’s a low-resistance, low-effort exercise and as the water only comes to your waist, there’s no risk of drowning. Just make sure you wear some slippers and go slowly as you walk to and from the pool.
It Helps with Mental Well-Being
If you participate in an aquatic exercise class, the social interaction can provide a massive boost to your well-being. You’ll have something to look forward to every week, with friends to meet, people to speak to, and more. In addition, you’ll get all the benefits provided by a dose of endorphins.
It’s a great way to reduce stress, potentially reducing your risk of everything from depression to anxiety and insomnia. Research has also shown that loneliness is one of the biggest problems in seniors and can contribute to a range of mental and physical disorders. Kick this to the curb and you’ll improve your well-being significantly.
It Could Prolong Your Life
Although it seems like a bit of a stretch to suggest that a few minutes of daily water exercise can improve your life, it’s true. All the things we outlined above, from improved heart health to the reduced risk of falling, could add years to your life. You’ll have fewer injuries, may require less surgical intervention, and will also have a healthier heart and joints.
Of course, you can get many of the same benefits with other forms of exercise, but the all-encompassing nature of aquatic exercise combined with the fact it is low impact makes it the perfect choice.
Conclusion: Aquatic Exercise in Your Area
You can find aquatic exercise classes in your area. Check with your local swimming pool to find upcoming classes and join in. Alternatively, just head to the pool and create your own classes.
You just need a bathing suit and a towel and you’re good to go. If you want some extra resistance or safety, you may also want to bring:
- Wrist weights and ankle weights
- Foam dumbbells
- Resistance paddles
Just stand in the water and perform some basic aerobic exercises. Think of it as tai chi or slow-motion aerobics, only with the added resistance of water. Make sure you take a friend along if you’re concerned about injuries and mobility problems, or you just don’t want to look silly standing alone and throwing shapes in the middle of a swimming pool.