Water Exercises For Seniors

Senior man swimming laps
Exercise is important for seniors, but can be hard on the joints. Water exercises allow a full-body low-impact workout that is gentle on the joints yet effective. Walking in water also provides cardio and resistance training that builds endurance and burns calories.

Most physical activities people do to get fitter and healthier are performed on land, such as walking, running, and yoga. However, another option that has become more popular, especially among older adults, is doing water exercises. The aquatic environment is considered safer for aging individuals — plus, performing activities in this setting offers an array of benefits, including improved functional fitness.

What Is Water Aerobics, And Why Is It So Good For Seniors?

First, what is aerobic exercise” It’s defined as a physical activity that increases breathing and heart rate. Apart from giving your cardiovascular health a boost, it also helps improves flexibility, bone density, and muscle mass.

Water aerobics

As you perform aerobic activities on the water, water aerobics leverages the distinctive features of the environment, such as water buoyancy, to help people move their bodies and core muscles.

This low-impact exercise is a safe and ideal choice for seniors, and here’s why:

1. It’s Easy On The Joints

As people age, we experience more joint pain and stiffness. So if you’re a senior looking for a joint-friendly physical activity, aqua aerobics is the best choice. It puts less strain on your joints and relieves symptoms of arthritis at the same time.

2. It Helps Minimize Bone And Muscle Loss

When paired with actual resistance and strength training, water aerobics helps build bone density and prevent muscle loss. It also increases strength. One study shows that participants gained about 10% more strength in their upper body region, 27% in the quadriceps, and 40% in the hamstrings.

Stretching exercises

3. It Promotes Balance And Flexibility

The buoyancy of the water allows you to perform exercises that seniors typically find hard to do on land. This gives you an optimal chance to enhance your balance, flexibility, and range of motion.

4. It’s Good For The Heart

Among the many health benefits of aqua-based aerobics is a cardio boost. You can keep your heart healthy and strong, helping you prevent developing cardiovascular diseases common among aging individuals.

5. It’s Versatile

You can perform aerobic exercises while you’re stationary at the side of the pool or moving across the edge. Different water aerobics classes are also designed to achieve specific goals (e.g., weight loss). Beginners and veteran participants alike can choose various intensity levels.

What Is The Best Form Of Exercise For Seniors

To truly benefit from exercising, you must do it regularly and faithfully. Water aerobics is one of the best types of exercise to do.

For aging individuals who may have health concerns like joint pain can hinder, water aerobics is considered the best form of exercise. It provides a safe environment where you can improve muscle strength of both your upper and lower body and boost even mental wellness.

This aquatic exercise is also something you can do with your peers. Research backs the argument that exercising with a crowd can help you stay committed. In a study, a whopping 95% of participants who enrolled in a weight-loss program with friends successfully completed it.

Exercises that encourage social interaction also help you tap into your competitive side. Positive competitiveness will fuel you to do more and reach your fitness goals.

How Often Should Seniors Do Water Aerobics? How Long Should Sessions Last?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, older adults must perform at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity endurance exercises per week. These include walking, social dancing, and water aerobics.

If you’re incorporating aqua-based aerobics into your weekly routine, expect that every session of this low-impact exercise program lasts about an hour. This already covers around 60 minutes of the 150-minute requirement.

An instructor facilitates water aerobics exercises that include both cardio and strength-training activities. There will also be a warm-up and a cool-down.

What Is One Of The Most Well-Known Water Exercises?

With the swimming pool getting increasingly accessible over the years, it’s no surprise why water aerobics has become one of the most popular forms of water exercise.

This exercise is ideal not just for seniors but even for younger age groups and those pregnant and with physical disabilities.

Barbell exercises

What Other Water Exercises For Seniors Can Be Done In The Pool?

You can do different pool exercises to remain physically active as you age. Here are some water workouts you can try:

1. Water Walking And Aqua Jogging 

Walk 10 to 20 steps forward in waist- or chest-high water, then walk backward. Jog in place for half a minute, then walk in place for another half a minute. Consider walking sideways as well for variation.

2. Leg Lifts

Stand in place, keep your back straight, slowly lift your right leg to your side, and then back to your starting position. Do this until you feel fatigued before you perform the same on your left leg.

3. Arm Curls

Stand with your feet, and place and hold water weights in front of you with your palms facing out. Curl the weights up and down and repeat until you’re fatigued.

4. Flutter Kicks

Using a kickboard, propel through the water using your legs. You can also do this without traveling across the pool — simply hold the side of the pool and start kicking.

5. Standing Water Push-ups

Place both hands over a shoulder width apart on the edge of the pool. Gently bend your arms, lean forward, and push your upper body back out. Repeat until you feel tiredness in your arms.

6. Pool Planks

Place a noodle parallel to the pool’s flooring and place both hands on it. Straighten your elbows while keeping your toes on the floor. Then, lean forward to achieve a plank position where your body is diagonal to the floor. Hold it from 15 to 60 seconds and do up to five reps.

7. Deep Water Bicycle

This is one of those water exercises done in deeper water. Loop a noodle or two around your back and place your arms atop the noodle for support. Start moving your legs as if you’re riding a bicycle. Do this for up to three or five minutes.

Senior at pool

Is Water Aerobics Safe For Seniors?

Pool exercises like water aerobics are among the most recommended physical activities for older people because of their safety. While the buoyancy helps you feel lighter and move better, the gentle resistance of the water is adequate to help you improve your fitness level. It’s a whole-body workout that’s also fun to do.

However, similar to what’s done before undertaking any other exercise program, you must consult your doctor first and get clearance that you’re okay to perform aerobics in the pool. Enroll in a class conducted by a certified instructor and familiarize yourself with the facilities and amenities available.

Is Water Aerobics Better Than Walking?

Walking is one of the most straightforward exercises people can do. But doing that in water is a whole other story.

Water walking is one of the water aerobics exercises that allows you to burn calories more while strengthening your muscles. Take note that water is much denser than air.

This study shows that those who did water walking exercises displayed an “increased lower limb lean body mass” compared to those who performed land walking. It suggests that walking in water can facilitate equal or even better muscle mass adaptation, which is particularly beneficial for seniors experiencing muscle wasting.

Walking in a pool also helps reduce skeletal loading and joint stress.

With the many benefits of water exercises, you and any other aging loved one should consider hitting the pool and enrolling in an aquatic fitness class near you. Water aerobics is the best water exercise you can do, considering its safety, versatility, and enjoyability.

Randell S.

Randell Suba is a former Physiotherapist who returned to his first love, writing. He has over a decade of online writing and research experience. Randall has experience managing the care of elderly parents who lived with his family and other relatives with dementia, so he writes in the area of senior living and care with considerable experience.

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