by Susan Ohlsen
We all know that water exercise is easy on the joints, increases flexibility and provides an opportunity to develop aerobic capacity. In addition, the following properties of the water itself can enhance and improve physical functioning.
Buoyancy supports body weight and means less impact on joints. If the water is chest deep, it reduces body weight by 60%, if the water is up to the shoulders or neck, it reduces body weight by 90%! Buoyancy also provides resistance which can lead to more balanced total body conditioning.
Hydrostatic Pressure is the pressure that water exerts on all surfaces under the water. It compresses the chest and can make breathing more difficult. It also reduces the heart rate so that the heart does not have to work as hard in the water to get the beneficial effect of exercise. Hydrostatic pressure acts like a total body “massage” that stimulates the lymphatic system and helps muscles recover from injuries.
Viscosity refers to water density. Water is 800 times denser than air and generates resistance in all directions of movement. Different types of movement in water can be varied to make exercise more or less difficult, e.g., the speed of movement, lever length, and the surface area of the body. Slower movement can help improve precision and coordination through all ranges of motion.
ThermoDynamics involves the flow of heat. Water transfers heat away from the body 25 times faster than air. This affects heart rate and oxygen consumption. Performing vigorous exercise in cool water results in lower heart rates than in warmer water, therefore, using the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) is a better way to gauge the intensity of your workout.
X marks the spot! If the water is at the level of your Xyphoid Process (the bottom tip of your sternum), 60% of your body weight is supported by the water.
Source: American Fitness Magazine, Summer 2017
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Susan Ohlsen is a Group Fitness Instructor who teaches both in and out of the water.