Pool workouts keep you cool and are easy on your joints.
You don’t have to be Katie Ledecky to get a good pool workout.
If the sweltering summer heat is wilting your motivation to stick to your typical workout routine, you might consider an aquatic option: the pool. Outdoor and indoor pools are great places to get and stay fit, whatever your swimming capabilities, says Erin Johnson, a physical therapy supervisor at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle. “Just as you don’t have to be a runner to do exercises at the track, you don’t need to have aspirations of being a swimmer to get a great workout at the pool,” Johnson says. “Aquatic training provides resistance and significant joint relief.” Here are nine pool exercises:
Simply walking in the pool can provide a good and low-impact workout, which is particularly helpful for people with arthritis, says Marcy O’Koon Moss, senior director of consumer health for the Arthritis Foundation. “You can walk on the floor of the pool, in the shallow end, or go to the deep end with a foam flotation device,” Moss says. “You can tailor the workout to your fitness level. Water workouts can be very gentle for beginners and those with tender joints. And you can ramp it up over time by going longer or faster or adding resistance with foam devices. Water exercises can be satisfying, joint-friendly workouts.”
Planking with noodles
Hold two water noodles – typically cylindrical pieces of buoyant polyethylene foam – in each hand in front of you. Push the noodles down in the water to form a plank position, in which your head is above water and your body is straight below the water’s surface while your toes touch the bottom of the pool. Hold the position for at least 30 seconds. “Draw your stomach muscles in and up to make sure your lower back doesn’t arch,” Johnson says. “Squeeze your glute muscles to hold the position.” Planking helps strengthen your core, which can help reduce back pain and improve your balance and posture.
Stand next to the edge of the pool on the shallow end and grab the edge with both hands. One at a time, swing your legs from side to side as if they’re swinging like a pendulum. “The water provides resistance as you push your legs in both directions, which helps to strengthen and tone,” Johnson says. “Just make sure your legs are doing the moving while using your core to keep your trunk still. It’s important in exercising to be able to teach the body to create power with the legs while maintaining a stable and strong core and trunk.”
Stand parallel to the shallow edge of the pool while holding the edge with one hand. To exercise your left leg, position yourself with your right leg near the pool wall and your right hand on the edge. With your knees slightly bent, slowly swing your left leg out, hold it for a few seconds, then lower the leg and repeat. Do 10 repetitions, then switch sides and do the same exercise with your right leg. Leg raises will help strengthen your leg, lower back and hip muscles.
In water that’s about chest-deep, put your back to the side of the pool and put both arms out on the edge so your body makes a “T.” Engage your core muscles by drawing your belly in, pull both knees up to your chest and then lower them back down without letting your back arch. Repeat 10 times. “Strengthening and controlling your deep core muscles can help prevent lower back pain,” Johnson says.
In the shallow end of the pool, place your back flat against the wall and squat so your shoulders are submerged with your feet flat on the ground. Have your arms out to your side at about 90 degrees at shoulder level with your palms facing forward. While tightening your abdominals and keeping your arms straight, move your arms forward, bringing your hands together. Slowly return back to the starting position and repeat 10 times. “This will help improve shoulder and back strength as the water adds resistance in both directions,” says John Soberal, a physical therapist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center’s Performance Therapy in Santa Monica, California.
In shallow water, place a water noodle under your shoulders for buoyancy and hold onto the wall with your arms straight. Keeping abdominal muscles engaged and knees straight, kick your legs forward and back. Focus on squeezing your gluteswhen your leg goes backward and not arching your back. Do three rounds of 30 seconds each. You can increase speed for added difficulty and to improve endurance. “This exercise is a phenomenal core, gluteal and leg exercise,” Soberal says. “[It] forces you to use your core to stabilize your entire body and keep from getting off balance as you float.”
Remember the jumping jacks you did during the calisthenics portion of high school physical education? Doing them in a pool is a great way to burn calories, says Dr. Benjamin Domb, an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in sports medicine and is based in Chicago. “Jumping jacks can tire you out on land, but the resistance of the water make them much more difficult, increasing your calorie burn,” he says. With your feet together and your hands by your side, jump out, moving your feet shoulder-width apart while bringing your hands together above your head. On land, this exercise is generally high-impact, but the buoyancy of the water supports your joints.
Stand where the pool’s water is chest-deep and hold onto the side of the pool with both hands, feet planted on the pool floor. Slowly push your feet off the bottom, which will allow your body to float to the top of the water. As if imitating a flying Superman, extend your arms, with your elbows straight. Straighten your legs, too, and hold the pose for up to 20 seconds before lowering yourself back into your original position. Try not to let your back arch by keeping your core and glut muscles engaged. Repeat this five times. Doing the Superman strengthens your shoulder and back muscles.
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(cover image from Getty via original article)