With the aging baby boomer population wanting to stay more physically active, the pool seems like the most logical choice to reduce stress on the joints and improve overall fitness. However, the aquatic environment still has the stigma that the pool is a place where old ladies with noodles and flowered bathing caps jump up and down. This tends to deter women but especially men to look to the pool for more of an aggressive workout.
The water allows for a much different training experience than most people are accustomed to. Water can be up to 800 times more supportive than air but up to 15 x more resistant. The water is a three-dimensional, isokinetic environment, which cannot be reproduced in any gym. The water is the great equalizer, the harder you push in the water the harder the water pushes back. With land based training we tend to rely on gravity and momentum, when the body enters the water both of these are significantly reduced and the body has to respond very differently. This is a great way to challenge the body, break through a plateau or balance dysfunctional movement patterns.
There are numerous fitness classes out there for almost any interest, age or ability level. Land based exercise programs have been adapted for the aquatic environment to help increase participation in the pool. Programs such as Aqua Zumba, Spinning, Boxing, Boot camps, Aqua-pole, Suspensions Training among others are continually being developed. These programs are great to keep the participant moving for a cardio workout and tend to create a fun and stimulating environment.
It is this author’s opinion we should train for fun as well as function. Because of the waters surrounding environment it creates a much more functional approach to exercise. The body has three planes of motion. Even though we move usually in one plane of motion at a time, we have to have stability in the other two planes. Water provides this automatically so the muscular system receives a more comprehensive training effect.
As aquatic professionals, we need to develop quality scientifically based programming based on the latest research so that more people will be educated that the pool can be the new gym. In the past few years there has been promising aquatic research coming from the strength and conditioning and sports world. Several studies show that the water can be a fantastic training environment to challenge any fitness level.
Strength training in the water was once thought impossible but over the past few years, studies show that if used with the correct pace, equipment and effort then strength gains can be achieved.Flexibility can be enhanced by using the water properties and research has shown gains in lower extremity flexibility after participating in aquatic fitness programming.
Power training especially jump training (Plyometrics) in the water has been extensively studied and the results show very similar results to land based training but without the added muscle soreness associated with land training.
This author has performed research in the area of shallow water sprinting compared to land based sprinting and the results showed that the subjects reported a much harder workout in the water with much less muscle soreness.
When developing aquatic fitness programming at your facility do not be afraid to think outside the box. As long as you are familiar with the research then you can design programs for any population or fitness level. Do not be afraid to challenge people no matter how old they are, whether they are an athlete or a
Geri-athlete remember the water is the great equalizer. Have fun but have function.