Aquatic Exercises for Seniors
There is nothing more important than staying active as you age. Physical activity is linked not only to a healthier life, but a longer life as well. Being active will keep your heart, lungs, joints and brain in shape, but maybe you are concerned about being injured while being physically active. This is probably one of the number one concerns senior citizens have about physical activity, which is why there are aquatic exercises for seniors.
It is a valid concern to have too. After all, even as a younger adult, I personally have dealt with my fair share of sports-related injuries. This begs the question then, what activity can you do as a senior that is less risky but will help you to stay healthy and in shape? Aquatics exercises are one of the best options.
What Are Aquatic Exercises?
Aquatic exercises are activities that you can do in a pool. One of the names that you will hear aquatic exercises go by is aquafit. Aquafit is simply aquatic aerobics. This means that the exercises are done in water with the intention of increasing your heart rate.
You can take an aquafit class through joining a fitness center that has a pool. Community centers like the YMCA may also offer aquafit classes if there is a pool at the center. On top of this, a lot of fitness centers offer classes that are targeted to seniors.
Benefits and Risks of Aquafit for Senior Health
As with any physical activity, there are a lot of benefits to participating in aquafit, but there are also a few risks. However, the benefits of being physically active generally outweigh the risks that could be involved.
There are some great benefits to partaking in aquatic exercises. Like any physical activity, aquatic fitness is not just good for physical health, but mental health as well. A study that was published in the Journal of Women & Aging concluded that the participants in an aquafit program were more optimistic as a result.
The study followed a group of elderly women in Mexico who participated in a 17-week aqua fitness class. Physiological and psychological evaluations were performed on them before, throughout and at the end of the study. The result was, “Participants in aquafitness became more optimistic, lost more weight, body fat, and a subsequent decrease in BMI, compared to controls.”
However, there are some risks to aquafit. One would be that some exercises can be dangerous if not performed properly. Some of the exercises may not be suitable for the elderly, people with osteoporosis, or even women who are pregnant.
Pros and Cons of Aquatic Exercises
Aquafit is generally a safer form of exercise for the elderly. It offers lower resistance and stress on joints, bones and connective tissue. Aquatic exercises are also easier on your back. Some of the other pros are that it improves flexibility, balance, coordination, muscle function and the ability to breathe.
Some cons to aquatic exercises are that it can be costly to partake in an aquafit class and not everyone is comfortable doing exercises in the water or in a bathing suit. Anyone who is doing aquafit should still be doing other exercises outside of the pool as well, like walking daily. It is not a fix all fitness regime.
Types of Aquatic Exercises
With all of that said about aquatic exercises, what are some of the exercises that you can do? You do not necessarily need to sign up for an aquafit class to do exercises in the pool. You can do them in your pool at home or at the community pool.
A great exercise to get your heart rate going is running in the pool. If you have ever tried to run in a pool you may remember it is quite difficult due to the resistance from the water. That’s the point. You should try to run from one side to the other of the shallow end. Be sure not to run on your tiptoes. Putting your foot down flat on the bottom of the pool is safer.
Calf raises in the pool can help to increase your lower body strength and ankle mobility. Simply stand with your feet hip distance apart and then lift your heels off the floor of the pool, up until you are on the balls of your feet. You can hold on the balls of your feet and then slowly lower your heels back to the ground.
Arm circles will help to work the muscles in your upper body and help to create more mobility in the shoulders. You stand with one foot forward and the other back for balance. Then raise your arms straight out in line with your shoulders; they should be just under the water. Start by making big circles in one direction and then the other.
Another exercise that is good for your upper body is standing pushups. You place your hands on the edge of the pool a little wider than shoulder width apart and at chest level. Then all you have to do is bend your arms, bringing your chest to the edge of the pool and push back to the start position. This exercise helps to build strength in your chest, back and arms.
Finally, a fantastic exercise for strengthening your legs and creating better mobility in the hips are leg swings. Standing at the side of the pool, you face the front of the pool placing your hand on the edge for balance. Then lift one of your legs first to the front and then to the back. Do this a few times and then switch to the other leg.
Aquatic exercises are a fantastic way for you to stay in shape as a senior and are fairly low risk. From helping the improvement body function and mental health, this style of fitness is certainly one to look into if you are searching for a new activity to try out.