Aquatic Exercise for Health

Aquatic Exercise for Health

The following blog post has been summarized from the recent article “Aquatic Exercise for Health: Probing the Depths of HIIT for Cardiometabolic Training” from the American College of Sports Medicine, written by Nagle, Elizabeth F. Ph.D., FACSM; Sanders, Mary E. Ph.D., ACSM-CEP, RCEP, CDE, FACSM; Becker, Bruce E. M.D., M.S., FACSM.

While the value of water has long been used for relaxation and wellness purposes, aquatic exercise has still not been embraced by the vast majority. In this article recently published by the Aquatic College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), aquatic exercise is defined as “an adaptation of land-based physical activity (i.e. walking, jogging, calisthenics, and locomotor/resistive movements) to a water medium, often performed in an upright stance.”

Aquatic high-intensity interval training (A-HIIT) is a form of aquatic exercise that is found to be extremely beneficial, safe and healthy for most populations, even those that are not capable of doing high-intensity interval training (HIIT) on land. It is also capable of providing positive cardiorespiratory and metabolic outcomes. There are many reasons why performing HIIT in an aquatic environment is so beneficial, particularly because of the natural properties of water:

  • Density of water is approximately 800 times as dense as air.
  • Hydrostatic pressure affects venous return and lymphatic pressure as depth increases.
  • Buoyancy offloads the effects of gravity so that a person can weigh a fraction of their body mass at differing water depths.
  • Thermodynamics of warm water help to increase joint range of motion and decrease pain perception.
  • Viscosity is the internal friction of a fluid, which ultimately means that it is more difficult to move through water than air, particularly related to the speed of movements.

The article highlights the many benefits of immersion in warm water to “foster health recovery, rehabilitation, health/fitness and recreational outcomes.”

  • Cardiac function
  • Blood pressure
  • Muscle blood flow
  • Respiratory function
  • Brain function

While aquatic exercise can be beneficial for a multitude of populations, it can be particularly useful for those with musculoskeletal or cardiometabolic disorders. Because of the decreased impact on joints, exercise can be performed for longer periods of time and at higher intensities in the water. More specifically, A-HIIT can be ideal for those with limited mobility, discomfort on land, neurological conditions, balance or coordination deficits, neuropathy, cardiometabolic conditions or for those who are overweight/obese.

“Notably, recent evidence has shown more favorable effects with acute aquatic exercise and aquatic exercise training programs compared with other land-based forms in the following areas:”

  • acute endothelial and blood pressure responses
  • greater augmented cerebral blood flow
  • greater improvements in pulmonary function
  • reduced pain and depression

This article offers great exercise ideas and specific applications, along with suggestions on how to use A-HIIT with clients or patients for optimal results. Read the full article here>>

Page Updated on: June 16, 2020


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