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Ester Marsh column: Water exercise has multiple benefits

I’m so happy to be back in the water again!

Before the pandemic closed us down, I taught two water classes per week and they really helped my back. I am back to teaching two classes since the regular instructor is out on maternity leave. Let’s first look at all the benefits water exercises have.

• It increases muscle strength and endurance. The resistance of the water increases your strength. You could add things like dumbbells, discs or mittens to add resistance.

• It improves cardiovascular fitness, and heart and lung function. For injured people who need to substitute land exercises for water exercises, it has been proven that they minimize the loss of fitness and muscles by going in the water.

• It helps flexibility. The buoyancy in the water takes the load off your joints. It creates a significant degree of weightlessness, allowing you to perform movements with ease.

• It increases self-esteem and confidence. You don’t have to know how to swim. If you want to hold on to the side while exercising that is fine, but I see people who were scared of the water exercising all over the pool.

• Less pain in joints and muscles

• It fosters social interaction and builds new friendships, which are even more important now after quarantine.

At this time, we have the two classes I teach, and three more are coming in April with instructor Louise Klaver. The times might not work for you, so I have added exercises below so you can do a workout at a time when it’s convenient for you.

Since you don’t realize how hard you are working and sweating in the water, it’s important to hydrate throughout your workout and use the scale of perceived exertion. That means how hard you feel you are working. You could use the 1-10 scale. One is barely doing anything, 10 is ready to pass out. You want to be between 5/6 and 8.

At our pool, there is always a lifeguard on duty but if you are at home or at a pool without lifeguards always have someone nearby while exercising.

A water exercise workout (without equipment) could look like this:

You can do each exercise 15-20 times or 30 seconds to a minute, even repeating numerous times.

• Run or walk in place

• Alternate knees up

• Alternate knees side to side

• Alternate hamstring curls (heels to butt)

• Alternate kicks to the front

• Alternate kicks to the side

• Both knees up to chest

• Both knees up to side (like a frog)

• Both kick to the front (can be low kicks)

• Run or walk forward and back

• Run or walk side to side

• Twist

• Run or walk while pushing your hands forward

• Run or walk while pushing hands sideways

• Jumping jacks but keep hands in water and close them in front of you

• Cross country skiing with big arm movement

Always make sure you stretch all the muscles worked. My class always feel so much better after a great pool workout and I hope you at least will give it a try!

Ester H. Marsh is health and fitness director of the  J.F. Hurley Family YMCA.

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