One of the advantages to living in an active adult community is that it allows those who are 55 and better to be exactly that: active. And for those who love to swim, the pools in these communities are often unparalleled. Many have both indoor and outdoor varieties in lush resort-style settings and spa-like atmospheres.
But beyond the crystal-clear water, aquatic activities provide not only a great outlet for socialization, but also a bona fide method of exercising that’s easy on the heart and joints, which makes it extremely beneficial for Baby Boomers. It goes without saying that swimming alone is one of the best water exercises. The Arthritis Foundation, which has hosted aquatics classes for more than two decades at gyms and hospitals throughout the country, says that swimming is one of its most popular programs. Because there is no impact with the ground, it’s less stressful on the joints, but at the same time, swimming builds endurance and burns muscle mass. And, it can burn 500 to 650 calories an hour. Swimming, however, is just one of many water-based activities that active adults can enjoy. Here are nine other ways to stay healthy and fit using the water.
Love walking but find it too hard on your knees and leg muscles? Try water walking instead. In waist-deep water, walk while swinging your arms, much like you’d do when walking outside. Avoid walking on tiptoes and leaning to the sides, and make sure to keep your back straight. To make it more difficult, wear hand webs so that there is more resistance with the water.
Once you’ve master water walking, take it up a notch with water aerobics. Much like regular aerobics offered at a fitness center, aquatic aerobics takes those same activities and brings them into chest-deep water. Some classes focus on a specific exercise, such as running, while others include various aerobic activities, complete with warm-up and cool-down periods.
To get your heart and breathing rates elevated and in turn improve your cardiovascular health, concentrate on doing one exercise at a brisk rate for 30 to 40 minutes in the shallow end of the pool. Some examples are jogging, kicking, marching, lifting knees and hopping. To do the exercises without making any contact with the pool floor, head to the deep end, straddle a pool noodle and try the same exercises.
American Family Physician states that 45 percent of women age 65 and older and 65 percent who are 75 and older can’t lift ten pounds. Only in the 55 age range? Strength training is still beneficial at any age. When practicing strength training in the water, resistance is naturally provided. But use the traditional out-of-water free weights and elastic resistance bands while in the water, and the benefits really start to add up.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 out of 3 adults over the age of 65 fall each year, and these falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries. In fact, more than 95 percent of hip fractures are caused by falls, the CDC says. How to work on maintaining your balance? Try the water version of balance-boosting exercises such as tai chi or yoga.
Another water exercise that’s easier than doing an entire yoga routine is the one-legged balance. This one will strengthen leg and core muscles, and in a pool, there’s no risk of falling and hurting yourself. In waist-high water, lift your knee up and place your foot on a noodle so that its sides float up into a U-shape. With your hands by your sides, balance for one minute, then move your knee to the side and hold again. Switch legs. Once you master that, hold your arms above your head.
Want to build upper body strength? Planks are great for that, but if you cannot hold the position long enough, it won’t benefit your abdominal muscles. The water, however, makes it easier. Grab a noodle, push it straight down into the water and lean forward so your body is positioned in an even incline. Hold for one to two minutes.
The phrases “treading water” or “tread lightly” actually have an entirely different meaning in the water. Treading water (the act of maintaining the body upright and the head above water while pumping the legs) is a full-body exercise because you move every major muscle group. A 130-pound person treading water at a brisk rate for one hour will burn about 590 calories, or 236 calories at a slower rate.
Think just floating in a pool isn’t beneficial? Actually, it can help loosen tight muscles and lessen joint pain, while increasing your energy and boosting your immune system. It may also help reduce your blood pressure and heart rate, as well as reduce the amount of stress hormones your body makes. The best part about water exercises is that you can do them while in the pool with friends or grandkids, or aquatics are even fun if you’re by yourself!