LSU AgCenter Nutritionist Advocates Aquatic Exercise with Proper Diet

Elizabeth S. Reames  |  4/21/2005 9:14:45 PM

News You Can Use For January 2004

Aquatic exercise is one of the fastest growing segments of the fitness industry, according to LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames, who advocates exercise with a proper diet for a healthy lifestyle.

In past years, water exercise was practiced mostly by older adults, but now people of all ages and abilities are doing a variety of workouts in the pool.

Some of the most popular exercises are water walking, aquatic kickboxing, aquatic boot camp, deep-water running wearing a flotation belt and practicing Eastern arts such as tai chi and yoga in the pool.

Sports medicine experts endorse aquatic exercise as an ideal way for injured athletes to maintain cardiovascular fitness while rebuilding strength and flexibility in a low-stress environment without the joint-jarring impact of land-based activity.

"Water workouts typically are easier on the body than land-based exercise, but aquatic activity can be as strenuous as you want to make it," Reames explains.

According to aquatic exercise experts, water provides about 12 times the resistance of air. "Just as your muscles get stronger from working against the resistance of an iron dumbbell, working against the resistance of water also has a strengthening effect," Reames says.

For those who want an extra strengthening effect, add resistance with some of the equipment designed for water workouts, such as webbed gloves, wrist and ankle weights and aquatic dumbbells.

Water exercise is low- or no-impact, depending on how deep you go. Water's buoyancy counters gravity's downward pull and takes the weight and strain off your joints. Water also helps assist with balance and removes the fear of falling, which makes the pool an excellent exercise environment for people who are overweight, pregnant or elderly as well as those who have ailments such as arthritis or multiple sclerosis.

One of the simplest forms of aquatic exercise is water walking. It is as easy as putting one foot in front of the other, say aquatics experts, who offer this advice:

• Consider wearing shoes made for water walking or use an old pair of sneakers to protect your feet from the bottom of the pool.

• Warm up by moving around in the water slowly and stretching gently for about five minutes.

• Pick a depth that is challenging, yet enjoyable. Chest-deep water is recommended, but if this is too difficult, walk in hip- or waist-deep water.

• Don't lean forward. When walking in water, your ear, shoulder and hip should be in a perpendicular line.

• Vary how you walk. For example, walk forward, backward and sideways, or march with knees high.

• Move your arms through the water for added intensity.

• Avoid the tendency to stay on your tiptoes, and be sure to walk all the way through your foot. When walking forward, step heel to toe. When walking backward, step toe to heel.

• Increase the intensity by making bigger or faster movements or by adding resistance, such as by cupping your hands instead of keeping them open or in a fist.

• Recognize that water's cooling effect may result in heart rates that are about 10 to 15 beats lower when exercising in water compared with the same effort on land.

• Cool down with stretching and easy movements in the water for about five minutes.

• Have fun. Use your creativity to make your water walking laps different, challenging and enjoyable.

More information about water exercise is available from the Aquatic Exercise Association at www.aeawave.com. To learn about the balance between diet and exercise, log on to the Family and Consumer Sciences section under the Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service at the LSU AgCenter Web site: http://www.lsuagcenter.com/.

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On the Internet: LSU AgCenter: http://www.lsuagcenter.com/

Source: Beth Reames (225) 578-3329, or breames@agcenter.lsu.edu

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