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Water and Exercise

Aqua fitness activities could be considered as any fitness activities undertaken when the body is submerged or partially submerged in water.

This might include Swimming, Diving (board, platform or scuba), Snorkelling, Aqua-aerobics, Hydrostatic Stretching, Deep Water Running, or even more structured activities such as Water Volleyball or Water Polo. The information in this book is applicable to all types of water activities, with the emphasis being on Aqua-aerobics, Deep Water Running, and Stretching.

There are many similarities between exercising in water, and any other type of exercise. Participants still need to warm up before starting any work that is strenuous or will increase the heart rate. The exercise session itself should be challenging, without causing injury or overexertion. And it is still advisable that participants move from hard work to cool down slowly and finish with some stretches at the conclusion of exercise.

Aqua-exercises do have some unique characteristics though. They are less likely to cause damage to muscles or joints through rapid or sharp movements, or from pounding on hard surfaces. Additionally, the body is less likely to overheat, because it is surrounded by water which is a continual source of cooling. And for those who are sensitive about their personal appearance, much of the body can be hid under water from other participants. This aspect may be desirable for those who feel they don't perform as well as some others, or are not happy with their body image. And finally, working out in water can be deceiving. It may feel as if very little work is being done while you are exercising in the pool, only for you to come out of the water and find yourself exhausted.


Water as a medium allows a different type of exercise than that performed on dry land.

#Water is Buoyant

When a body is partly submerged in water, the force of gravity is countered by the buoyancy affect of water (ie. the water pushes you up to the surface - or causes your body to float, countering gravity which pulls you down). The net result is a less jarring affect (than on land) as the body moves up and down. The work load and motion are the same, but the water resistance gives it a feeling of being gentle. This allows a high impact work out with the qualities of a low impact work out. Water is also an excellent medium for exercise for older people. The water in this case acts as a support, allowing movement and flexibility that may not be allowed on dry land.

The deeper a body is submerged, the less effect gravity has upon it -in essence, by submerging more of your body in water, you are reducing your effective weight.

For example, at chest depth, a person who weighs 60kg out of the water may only have an effective weight of 12 kg in the water. Be aware that these figures can vary according to the fat % in each individuals body weight. Fat in the body is more buoyant than other tissues, which means that a higher fat proportion in the body will cause an overweight person to be effectively lighter in water than another person of similar weight whose body comprises more muscle and less fat.

#Water is Cooling

Depending on the temperature of the water, it can remove any heat build up in the body faster than any heat build up that occurs when exercising on land. It is important, however, that the water you are exercising in is not too cool, as you can rapidly lose to much body heat when you are submerged in very cool water.

#Compression Forces are Decreased

The weight of the body on land tends to compress joints. Weight above the base of the spine causes the joints at the bottom of the spine to squash together, and this impact is increased with exercise. When the body is immersed in water, these forces of compression are significantly decreased, hence there is less wear and tear on the joints.

#Hydrostatic Pressure on the Body is Even

There is equal pressure on the body in all directions around parts of the body at any given depth of water. This means that any damage by sharp or irregular movement is decreased. For instance, if a twisting movement is made at the waist, the density of the water slows the movement down. This not only increases the amount of energy being expended to make the movement, but also makes the movement less harsh and easier on the muscles. The water acts as a dampener, buffering & slowing such movements.

#Hydrostatic Pressure Can Affect Blood Movement

Any part of the body that is submersed will have a greater pressure on the skin than normal air pressure on the skin is. This situation means that the heart must push blood harder to get it into blood vessels that are close to the skin surface. As the primary goal of exercise is to increase the heart rate, this assists in meeting this criteria more easily. However, it is something that also needs to be watched, especially if any participants have a history of high blood pressure problems.

#Increased Resistance to Body Movements

The resistance to movement in water can be around 830 times greater than the resistance to the same movement in air. And this is really what water fitness programmes are all about. The combination of a greater work load in a softer, more supportive environment makes water exercise ideal for all age groups and fitness levels. Water sport can be very demanding, as can be seen by the health and fitness of elite athletes such as swimmers and triathletes. But it can also be gentle, making it a good type of exercise for nearly anyone, as well as one that can be increased as the level of fitness increases.

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