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Splash into shape

Whether you’re looking to mix up your routine or you need to burn calories without stressing your joints, a water workout might be the solution—even if you can’t do more than a doggie-paddle.

Exercising in a pool is ideal for people who are obese or have arthritis. When you move through water, you don’t have to lift your own weight. This puts less stress on your joints. Water workouts are also great for people who have weakness; balance or respiratory problems; or painful conditions like fibromyalgia. Pushing against water provides natural resistance that can help strengthen your muscles. And being immersed in water can keep you cool even when you’re working hard.

Water workouts aren’t weight-bearing activities, so they can’t help you increase your bone strength like walking or lifting weights can. But they can help you become more flexible, increase your range of motion, lose weight and improve your heart health. Try these options:

  • Shallow-water workouts. Experts recommend exercising in water that’s between waist and chest height. The water will be deep enough that you can move your arms under-water comfortably, but not so deep that you’ll have trouble standing squarely in place. Some people wear pool shoes for better traction. Consider signing up for classes in water walking or aqua aerobics, with or without water weights (dumbbells you can use in the pool).
  • Deep-water workouts. Try treading water or “jogging” laps for a whole-body workout. To intensify your routine, wear hand webs, which add resistance as you move your hands through the water. For safety, wear a life jacket.
  • Swimming. Whether you do a fast forward crawl or a slow backstroke, laps can help you get into shape. Start with a 10-minute workout and gradually add more time. For extra intensity, grab a kickboard and propel yourself forward, using your legs.