Cool reasons why it’s calorie-burning, fitness-building, fun, and perfect for anyone of any shape, size and age.
I’m not naturally drawn to water. I failed at learning to dive. Chickened out because the regulator kept popping out of my mouth. I did learn to swim at a young age though, and can do a very weak breast stroke and tread water if my life depended on these actions.
Essentially, however, I find swimming inconvenient – too many things to lug with me, too many risks involved (not counting drowning), such as dry, brittle hair, over-exposure to the sun if I swim outdoors during the day, chlorine toxicity (if I don’t shower before I take a dip, among other unmentionable situations). Then there’s getting in and out of swim things and wringing them out, and then washing them. Such utter chores.
But since I’ve discovered the benefits of exercising in water, I have to – sort of – eat my words. Well, sort of only because said exercises aren’t exactly like swimming, and you don’t have to be a strong swimmer to do them routinely.
The Case for Swimming
Most of us know about the rehabilitative benefits of swimming. If you don’t, here’s why many orthopedic doctors recommend it as a form of exercise during injury recuperation: because it is not weight-bearing, it’s great for (not stressing) the joints, and with water providing natural resistance while in the act, swimming blessedly is both an anaerobic (muscle-toning) and aerobic (heart-pumping) form of exercise.
In our weather, swimming is also perfect as long as you’re protected with water-proof sunblock, because as you lose heat while submerged in and cutting through water, you also don’t feel like you’re sweating at all. Although you are, so drinking enough water is important as you exercise in water.
But the drawback about swimming is that you have to be able to swim a decent number of laps for it to have beneficial long-term effects. And for that to happen, you would have to be a fairly skilled swimmer; not to say that all skilled swimmers have good stamina. But being able to slice through water efficiently (to do so, your strokes need to be on point) is a good start to going the distance and reaping the full benefits of swimming – not for me then, since I struggle to even complete a full lap in my sub-standard breast stroke.
No Swimming Required
Sure, I want to burn calories aerobically and anaerobically. I want toned muscles and a strong core. I don’t want to wilt in the heat. I want to have fun, and maintain my shiny locks. What folks like me need are water exercises that don’t involve swimming.
If you’re also ambivalent about swimming, I summarised nine fun yet effective water exercises that we can all splash out on:
The Abs Bicycle
Rest elbows on the edge of the pool or on a pool noodle, and move your legs as if to cycle. Works your abs, the core, shoulders, and legs.
Double Leg Lifts
Lean back against the edge of the pool with your arms stretched out on either side and flushed against the pool’s edge. Keep your legs together, lower them down without bending your knees, then raise them up as high as you can, keeping legs perfectly straight and together.
The catch is to do jumping jacks half-suspended in water. That is, jump with your legs out as in a conventional jumping jack on land, but in water, don’t let your feet touch the bottom of the pool when you bring them back into center position.
It seems easy peasy to hold on to the edge of the pool, a paddle board or noodle and kick your legs rapidly behind you, and all the time under water, but it’s not if you do it for an extended period of time or over a long distance.
The Frog Jump
It’s like underwater ballet. Start from what in ballet is called a “plie position” (heels together, knees bent outward, and bottom tucked under), then jump as high as you can out of the water, returning to the plie position as you land. The deeper you go into the water, the harder you’ll be working your quads and butt when you get back into plie position. Great for working the inner thighs if you do them as quickly as possible, with no pauses between the first and second moves.
Cross Knees to Elbows
From a standing position, bring one elbow down across your body to touch your opposite knee. Tighten your core and then switch sides.
From a standing position, with shoulders back and chest out, bring both knees up to your chest with a light jump. While on land, the knee tuck works the legs dramatically, in water, your core is forced to work as well. This is because resistance from the water slows down your movements and forces you to engage your abs in order to stabilise your position. The plus point is also the fact that the water turns the move into a low-impact one – perfect for anyone with knee or foot injuries.
You can also get yourself booked into aqua spinning classes, which are essentially like the butt-kicking spin classes (like the ones offered at Aquaspin) you might have attended on land, only in water cycling, the stationery bikes are submerged in water, and the resistance is provided by water.
Or you could just walk in water, as you would on land, striding across the pool back and forth, swinging your arms proudly. Don’t walk on tip toes, but with your feet flat on the floor of the pool, and keep your abs tight so as not to lean forward or to the side. Water walking burns as many calories as does walking on land, and it offers you natural resistance from water.
Combine these exercises and you have yourself a simple water aerobics routine.