Every new year brings “new” people to a fitness program who are primarily looking for weight loss as their number one New Year’s resolution (i.e. they want to get in shape!).
A water fitness program can be the best solution when looking for exercise options for people who carry extra weight and may have a variety of medical conditions. Most people will have taken a “break” over the holidays and some may not have exercised in many years (or maybe never).
This “special population” requires an exercise program that is more forgiving for their body type and/or medical conditions.
The greatest feature of water training is that you can achieve a more intense work out without the wear and tear that gravity places on the joints especially the knees, hips and spine. Take into consideration that having ten extra pounds of belly fat on the front of the body can place approximately 100 pounds of added stress on the spine – just standing! The buoyancy and protection of water can cushion vertical stress more successfully than working up against gravity (as land exercise does) especially when moving backwards in the water. Moving backwards is much safer in the water than on land because backwards movement is key to helping to balance the weaker muscles of the body which will consequently decrease injury and improve posture.
Another important features of water training is that water offers a massage effect (hydrostatic pressure) to allow an individual to work out for a longer duration while providing comfort to the exerciser. Total caloric expenditure is critical for successful and long term weight management.
Case in point: How many people who are overweight, new to exercise, or have medical conditions can realistically walk on a treadmill for 45 consecutive minutes? This is possible in water where change of direction (walking forward, sideways, and backwards) may be easily combined to work a wider variety of muscle groups which helps to prevent muscle fatigue.
STICKING WITH A PROGRAM
Enjoyment and compliance:
The optimal goal for an exercise program for weight loss or weight management is to increase energy expenditure yet minimize potential for injury. In order to burn as many calories as possible, the client needs to exercise regularly and move as much as possible. The duration should be such that the each exercise session will burn a minimum of 300 kcal (kilocalories). Most water exercise programs (that move) will easily burn approximately 300-400 kcal / hour. The added benefit of water training is that there is minimal pain and muscle soreness and the most amount of enjoyment so the client wants to participate frequently in an exercise program. If an exercise program hurts, the individual should NOT do the program. Water naturally minimizes pain and soreness because of the massage effect of the water moving around the body. Without equipment, movement in water is facilitated by concentric muscular contractions ( the muscle shortens without load). Concentric muscle work helps to ensure pain-free exercise. Another important consideration for program design is that the duration is increased prior to intensity.
The goal of many obese or out of shape clients is to ultimately gain strength, mobility, and confidence to be able to move and improve functional activities of daily living for moving on land. Water training has been researched to improve function and performance on land. The program design must utilize a variety of exercises as well as train the many components of fitness to ensure a complete and balances program. When people realize that the benefits of water translate to quality of movement on land, a person will likely develop a good workout attitude. Cross Training is good strategy to incorporate into a water program due to the variety of formats possible with aquatic fitness programming. Cross training is key for burning more calories because the body cannot adapt to the exercise modality. Try a water walking program, a noodle program, change up the exercise inventory, work only with mitts, try intervals or circuit training.
MOVING CORRECTLY – DOING IT RIGHT
Helping patrons or clients get the most out of their WaterART Programs and MOVING correctly is the primary responsibility of the fitness professional. Good body posture and correct alignment incorporating abdominal work may be effectively targeted in the pain free environment of the water. Another excellent feature of water training is the constant abdominal and core stabilization training a client get when MOVING through the water. This dynamic balance training is functional and does transfer to land benefits. Training core on land may be dangerous or not possible for people with poor balance skills yet in water the water’s protection will make the experience comfortable and very possible.
Part of effective exercise technique is to understand how muscle groups facilitate joint action. As water instructors, our main concern when strengthening muscles is working against buoyancy or working with the resistance of the water. Remember, buoyancy lifts the body up, so in order to work and overload the muscles effectively. An instructor needs to cue joint action to work against the buoyancy of the water.
Here are some steps to review before starting a program for people who are new to exercise and may have medical issues or are overweight.
Medical clearance. Fill out an exercise readiness (Exercise Par-Q form) or minimally state the information verbally. If your center doesn’t advocate proper screening forms or assessments for starting a program, try to encourage them to utilize minimal these minimal standard of care forms.
Recommendations for exercise safety Always allow clients to move at a pace that is comfortable and “feels” good. Try to gradually work more intensely as the training progresses but realize that initially duration is more important than intensity.
Medication: Check if the person is on any medication and how it affects exercise response. i.e. They may have a “puffer” or inhaler for asthma which should always be brought pool side
Explain exercise guidelines such as the Rate of Perceived Exertion scale (RPE) which runs from 1 -10. Start moving between3-4 for warm up and 5-6 for the workout or conditioning segments.
Inquire if participant is working with a nutritionist, or has any dietary or medication concerns. Is there anything that you need to know.
Review health history. Have they had any injuries or surgeries in the past year?
Review skill levels with each individual: Ask if they comfortable in the water, have they been to a water exercise program before? Teach the basic skills such as sculling for balance ands stabilization, how to recover from a fall to a vertical position on their own, (most important with someone who is predominantly a floater). Utilize a lot of walking patters to help the client plant their heels down to complete each move and prevent calf fatigue. Also, emphasize where their optimal training depth (for protection and maximum performance), as well as how to breathe and maintain posture and balance.
Appropriate water wear. They may not fit or feel comfortable in a bathing suit. Larger individuals should wear water shirts (polyester is best) with men’s roofer or board shorts. Polyester tights or Capri pants are a good option. WaterART does specialize in stocking sizing 6-24 or sized 30 inch chest through 50 inches; however, we appreciate not everyone wants to invest in the gear
Tips for Success of Weight Loss with Water Training
- Frequency of Exercise should be daily or at least 5 times a week
- Strength Training should utilize a variety of techniques and an individual should perform at least 2-3 sets of approximately 8-25 repetitions for all major muscle groups.
- Duration should be approximately 40-60 minutes a day or two sessions of 20-30 minute
- Intensity should be approximately 50-70 % of V02 peak or 5-6 on the RPE scale. Duration should be added prior to intensity
- Cardiovascular should be sustained typically longer than muscular strength activity. However, intervals of muscle work and then cardio work is the best training method as clients get to recover and then work. Additionally, cardiovascular training provides “endorphins” or a natural release of happy feelings. This is key to feeling good and wanting to make a positive lifestyle change.