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Working Out in Water: Why H2O Is Vital

Whether you want to increase cardiac fitness, build muscle strength or improve flexibility, water provides an ideal environment for working out. The effort of resisting water's mass elevates your heart rate while building strength and stamina. Swimming, water aerobics, or jogging in water enhance cardiopulmonary function. If you're looking for an alternative to high-impact workouts, or you're recovering from a joint injury or fracture, water offers an environment where you can maintain your fitness year-round. Exercising in water tones all areas of your body while leaving you refreshed and relaxed.

Heart and Lungs

You can build heart and lung capacity and burn calories by using multiple large muscle groups while swimming. Working out in water presents approximately 15 times more resistance than working out on land. Propelling your arms and legs through water increases cardiovascular effort. Inhaling and exhaling in time with your strokes tones the respiratory muscles and improves pulmonary function. A 2004 university study of recreational swimmers in their 30s found that study participants were able to maintain healthy muscle mass, blood pressure and lung function into their 70s.

Jogging in water or water aerobics offers the cardiovascular benefits of swimming with the added effort of maintaining a vertical position in water. You can use a weighted belt to give yourself more stability and resistance while jogging or swimming in the pool. Calisthenic exercises like squats, arm rotations, hip rotations and jumping jacks can be performed in water for extra aerobic conditioning and strength building. The harder you push against the water as you move, the more you'll benefit from water's body-sculpting potential.

When training for strength, focus on maintaining proper body alignment to maximize the effectiveness of the exercises. Exercising in water can mask some of the signs of dehydration, like sweating and elevated body temperature. You may need to remind yourself to drink water during your workout to stay hydrated.

Back, Extremities and Core

Swimming works the back and abdomen, chest and shoulders, arms and legs. For people who suffer from back pain, swimming strengthens the muscles that support the body without harmful impact on the spine. Even without swimming, you can tone muscles and relieve back pain by doing upper-body range-of-motion exercises in the water, like sculling or arm rotations. Use the edge of the pool or a ladder for modified pushups or triceps dips. Work your lower extremities with squats, lunges and leg lifts in shallow water. Support your upper body by holding on to a kick board while doing flutter kicks across the pool to strengthen quadriceps and calves.

The core abdominal muscles come into play with almost any water-based exercise if you're working to maintain proper body position. As you swim, jog, walk or do body-sculpting exercises, your core muscles contract to provide a center of stability and alignment. If you want to focus on an abdominal toning, the resistance of water makes exercises like pelvic twists and hip rotations more effective.

Muscles, Joints and Skin

Flexibility training in water gives you the buoyancy to hold stretches that you might not be able to maintain on land. You can use the rails, ladder, or walls of a swimming pool to secure your position when stretching your shoulders and back, triceps and chest, or hamstrings and quadriceps. Stretching in warm water eases sore muscles and joints and flushes toxins from the skin, while raising the metabolism and increasing circulation to vital organs.

Take the opportunity to visit a spa or hot spring for therapeutic detoxification in mineralized water. The soothing environment of water relieves stress while promoting the relaxation of your entire body.

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