Water and Body: Why It’s Useful to Workout in Water

Regular exercise is essential in maintaining the ideal body weight and avoiding obesity. It has also been proven to be an effective tool against diseases such as heart problems and diabetes. For a workout to be as effective as possible, at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week is generally prescribed by the American College of Sports Medicine guidelines. This means either working out for about 30 to 60 minutes for five days a week or working out three times a week for 20 to 60 minutes in vigorous intensity.

While most people prefer traditional land-based (such as those done inside a gym) workouts and strength training, others find water-based workouts to be appealing. For example, some patients undergoing physical therapy or athletes that require rehabilitation may prefer water-based workouts because of the challenges presented by their conditions. Some people move better with their weight supported by water. Others may simply find the mere presence of water to have a calming effect, lessening their physical and psychological stress.

Exercises Done in Water

Studies have confirmed why workouts done in water are useful in attaining better health. A field known as hydrotherapy makes use of water in any of its forms (liquid, ice, steam), either internally or externally, in both the treatment and prevention of diseases. Exercise routines done in water are also called aquatic exercise and is one form of hydrotherapy.

Aquatic exercise routines, whether for strength training, rehabilitation, or for general physical fitness is an example of the wide use and application of water in maintaining a healthy body system. Vertical workouts such as water aerobics, jogging in water, deep water running, or simply going for a swim are some ways to work out in water.

Characteristics of the Aquatic Environment

Before engaging in any form of exercise, learning about the location where the routines will be executed is always advised. Since the environment where the exercise routine is performed can have a great impact both in the execution and the person’s bodily response, it is important to know what properties comprise the aquatic environment.

Conducting workouts in an environment filled with water is suitable for the human body because water has essential characteristics that support aerobic exercise and movement. Among these properties are:

  • Cushioning effect. Water is known for having higher density than air. This means when the body is immersed in water, it is subjected to more force from the water than when it is surrounded by just air. Also, being in the water makes it possible for a person to float in water. With the hydrodynamic principle of buoyancy in play, movement in water is cushioned and therefore has less impact compared to movements in land-based training. This is because the upward thrust of buoyant force lessens the pull of gravity on the body, lessening body weight as it becomes more immersed in water. For people with body weight concerns, this enables them to feel more agile and allows easy movements without having to worry about joint pains associated with body weight constraints.
  • 3D Resistance. Water has higher density and viscosity than air which also means that it provides greater multi-directional resistance. As a result, any movement done in water receives a higher amount of resistance, making the body parts work harder but without the amount of effort it will take (because of the cushioning effect!) when done on land. This increase in effort in the body’s muscles facilitates more expenditure of energy and calories.
  • Powerful pressure. Hydrostatic pressure or pressure that water exerts on itself is passed on to any individual that is submerged in it. This means that the force applied by the water on the body also increases as you become more immersed in it. The deeper the immersion, the greater the hydrostatic pressure received by the body. This causes compression in the muscles and organ systems, a process that is beneficial in many bodily functions.

Benefits of working out in water

All the characteristics of water help to make it a good environment for exercising. Here are the benefits of working out in water:

  • Increased blood circulation. When a working out in water, the environment’s hydrostatic pressure promotes compression of body fluids, including blood. The compression helps to increase venous circulation which is the flow of blood from the veins back to the heart. This improved blood supply in the heart likewise improves the blood supply from the heart to all the organs and tissues, with most of the cardiac output directed towards the muscles and the skin. The increased blood circulation all over the body also means better distribution of oxygen and nutrients.
  • Better cardiac output. The increase in blood circulation brought about by compression in the water environment not only facilitates better distribution of nutrients. It also trains the heart. With an improved blood supply, the heart learns to pump at a higher rate than what it is used to. This cardiac training occurs alongside lower pulse rates and lower blood pressure.
  • Greater respiratory function. In the same manner, the lungs are trained to work harder from the increased blood flow. Aside from blood circulation in the chest cavity, compression also takes place in the walls of the chest. Both processes alter the lungs’ function, making it increase its work of breathing.
  • Improved renal efficiency. The kidneys also receive better blood flow from the improved circulation brought about by exercise in an aquatic medium. Renal efficiency increases as more blood reaches this vital body organ. The increased blood flow increases kidney function which includes filtering the blood, passing waste in the form of urine, and maintaining the balance of bodily fluids, among others.
  • Activation of the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is a nerve that is connected to and is involved in the control of the cardiovascular, respiratory, immune, and endocrine systems. It is stimulated as blood volume in the heart increases. This stimulation can affect many bodily functions and processes because this nerve affects the sending of nerve impulses to various organs in the body. Blood vessels, for example, are relaxed and vasoconstriction is lowered with the activation of the vagus nerves. This relaxation of blood vessels results in the promotion of better blood flow to all the body’s organs.
  • Stronger vagus response. Aside from the activation of the vagal nerve, overall vagus response is also strengthened. The vagus nerve and its response affect our emotional and cognitive function. With vagus nerves being stimulated by increased blood flow in the heart, a stronger vagus response is built. This response is partially responsible for coping with stress, injury, or illness. As this response gets stronger due to constant activation, your body’s coping mechanism gets better and its recovery becomes faster.
  • Stronger muscles. With an environment that is viscous, dense, and naturally-resistant, working out in water makes muscles stronger. This is because the conditions surrounding the workout force the body to exert more effort to counter the challenging aquatic properties, thereby training various muscle groups to be stronger in the process.
  • Lesser joint pain. Elderly people and those who are suffering from musculoskeletal disorders, like joint disorders, are most likely to benefit from the abovementioned cushioning effect of an aquatic exercise routine. Buoyancy and decreased gravitational pull help in alleviating joint loading when exercising in water. With the impact of the exercise and body movement relieved from the joints, workouts done in water make for a less painful alternative than land-based exercises.
  • Burned calories. Aquatic exercise facilitates carbohydrate and lipid metabolism through aerobic processes. In simpler terms, it helps the body burn calories from food and turns them into a usable form of energy. Because working out in water requires the body to exert more force to counter the hydrostatic pressure and resistance properties of water, more energy is required to sustain this force and more calories are burned.

Exercise done on a regular basis and in a suitable environment can produce numerous benefits for the body. When it comes to workouts done in water, the natural properties of this environment foster a conducive setting for both treatment and prevention of bodily disorders and conditions. The cushioning effect brought about by water’s density, buoyancy, and lessened pull of gravity, decreases impact on the joints. The water’s viscous properties provide multidirectional resistance, strengthening the muscles. Hydrostatic pressure, on the other hand, promotes compression of tissues and induces better blood flow.

The benefits of an aquatic exercise regimen both as a therapeutic solution and as an overall form of physical fitness are diverse. From an increase in blood circulation that subsequently fosters cardiac output, greater respiratory function, renal efficiency, and activation of the vagus nerves, to stronger muscles, better coping mechanisms, and less joint pain, working out in water proves to be extremely useful in many ways.

With proper guidance and regulated timing, an exercise routine done in water can be a useful tool in attaining better body health and promoting natural healing.

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