If you’re thinking of adding a new element to your exercise routine, maybe it’s time you got all wet.
“Water workouts have many benefits that you can’t get on land,” certified aquatic instructor Peggy Van Vliet said. “Exercising in water decreases the impact on joints, improves circulation, stabilizes the core and improves flexibility.
“Many people find they can exercise longer in water than on land because they don’t experience joint or muscle pain.”
Van Vliet, who also is a personal trainer at SportsMed at Yampa Valley Medical Center, has been teaching a variety of water aerobics classes in Steamboat Springs for many years.
“Shallow water movements such as jumping or running can be tolerated by many people who cannot do these exercises on land, due to weak knees or other joint problems,” she said.
“You don’t even have to like swimming to work out in the shallow end of the pool,” Van Vliet said. “Shallow water movements can improve overall fitness or be a helpful part of an individual’s rehabilitation program following injury or surgery.”
Most students in deep-water exercise classes wear a float aid to increase buoyancy. Again, swimming skills are not required.
“A deep-water workout benefits the heart, lungs, joints and circulation,” Van Vliet said. “It works many muscle groups and requires you to engage your abdominal muscles, which builds core strength.”
There is a simple reason why water exercises are so beneficial.
“In the water, everywhere you move, there is resistance against your body, and that resistance is 12 times more than air,” Van Vliet said. “This creates a significant workout for your muscles.”
Water-based exercise is for people of all ages and stages of fitness, from elite athletes to those who have limited movement because of age, injury or chronic diseases, Van Vliet said. It can help people with arthritis or rheumatoid arthritis because it improves use of affected joints without worsening symptoms. It also improves or maintains bone health.
“Deep-water exercise can be modified to meet almost any goal for any population,” Van Vliet said.
Steamboat Springs resident Mary Brassell has been taking Van Vliet’s deep water exercise class for many years.
“It’s wonderful being outdoors and having space to move around,” she said. “I like that it’s non-weight bearing, so if you have an injury or things that hurt, you can exercise without pain.
“One of the main things is that we have so much fun,” Brassell said. “It’s a large group, mainly women, and everyone in that class has a good sense of humor or develops one.
“The class has all ages, including young women, pregnant women and senior citizens who come out to the pool using a walker,” she added. “Everyone wears hats — some are funny, some are charming — and it’s very social.”
The fun doesn’t obscure the fact that the classes provide a real workout.
“It’s very aerobic, and we all need diversity in exercise,” Brassell said. “We extend our limbs, do cross-country skiing exercises and even do triathlons, where we swim and go through the motions of bicycling and running.
“You really feel a sense of accomplishment by the end of each class.”
Christine McKelvie is the public relations director of Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.