People with certain physical limitations cannot participate in running, jogging, walking, biking, gym workouts, sports activities, and other high-impact exercise routines. However, there is still an option for them to maintain a healthy, physically active lifestyle.
Swimming is an ideal exercise for those with limitations as well as for healthy adults. It is a low-impact aerobic exercise that builds strength and improves cardio abilities and is a total body-strengthening workout since all parts of the body are used. Swimming helps your body to use oxygen more effectively, improving lung capacity and building endurance. And it decreases the risk of many chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and osteoporosis. As for weight loss, Dr. I-Min Lee, a Harvard Medical School professor of medicine who studies the role of physical activity in disease prevention says “Recreational swimming will burn about the same calories as brisk walking.”
Besides swimming, there are other water-based exercises that are great options:
- Water aerobics –These are simply mild exercise and movements done in an indoor or outdoor pool. Some might be apprehensive about water aerobics because they are not strong swimmers or do not swim at all, but these classes (which may be offered by YMCAs, private clubs, or sports clubs) do not involve actual swimming but other water exercises instead. They are led by an instructor who will guide participants and show them what to do. There are different levels that may be offered: beginning, medium, or advanced-level classes. These are usually held in the shallow part of a pool where members stand while doing the exercises, but deep-water exercises may be an option as well. Accessories that may be used are items like kickboards, foam noodles, and water dumbbells (made of foam and plastic). Often, the classes are accompanied by recorded music and are done with a group, so participants can enjoy getting to know other participants.
- Acquapole® – A newer water fitness exercise, pole dancing or Aquarobics, began in Italy in 2010 when water fitness instructor Monica Spagnuolo and Stefania Manfredi developed an apparatus consisting of a steel pole that fits into a red base and can be applied to the bottom of a swimming pool through a system of suction pads. This more intense water activity has spread to Australia and other countries and can be found in some US cities but is not yet widespread in the United States. With over 20 “holds” and 150 different exercises, Acquapole® Fitness offers participants a variety of training sessions that can work on all muscle bands: legs, arms, and core.
- Silver Sneakers – offers water aerobics classes like Splash or Water in Motion for all skill levels—even non-swimmers. Splash involves the use of signature splash-boards to increase movement and intensity options. (Silver Sneakers is a fitness program for older adults and is available at no cost under some supplement plans. )
Whether swimming or participating in water aerobics, the buoyancy of the water reduces the amount of stress put on the weight-bearing joints of the legs and enables the participant to do a full range of movements and exercise that they might not be able to do on land.
The great thing about swimming and other water exercises is that they can be done by those of any age, weight, or body type. And you can get the exercise without the sweat that goes along with gym workouts and other high-intensity exercises. If health conditions prevent you from participating in high-impact exercise activities, just grab a bathing suit and find a swimming pool.