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The ability to swim is a skill every child needs to learn. Taking part in formal swimming lessons and water safety classes can reduce the risk of drowning by up to 88% Some children enjoy swimming so much that it becomes their sport of choice and they join a swim team. Many parents sit on the deck while their children take swim lessons or have swim team practice, but they could be missing out on an opportunity to get in their own water workout at the same time. 

There are many benefits to trying out that water fitness class going on in another part of the pool. Just getting into the pool lowers blood pressure for most people. Blood pressure decreases because immersion relaxes the blood vessels so that they can carry more blood while presenting less resistance to the heart, which is pumping that blood. Decreased blood pressure lingers for a while after you get out of the pool. With regular aquatic exercise, the vessels themselves become more pliant and supple. Since stiffening of the blood vessels is a primary factor that causes blood pressure to increase with age, keeping them pliant reduces the risk for hypertension.

The hydrostatic pressure of the water pushes blood out to the extremities, and in combination with more supple blood vessels, stroke volume and cardiac output increases. This means that the heart becomes more efficient, pumping more blood with each stroke. Blood flow to the muscles during water exercise can increase an amazing 250%. With this kind of blood flow, heart rate is lowered. Target heart rates while exercising in shallow water average about 7 beats per minute lower than the same intensity exercise on land. The exact number of beats per minute depends on many factors, including the fitness level of the individual. 

The working muscles are not the only beneficiaries of improved cardiac output. Blood flow to the brain increases progressively with immersion from zero depth to shoulder depth. The blood flow persists throughout the exercise period, delivering oxygen and nutrients which the brain uses to repair and regenerate brain and nerve cells. It is reasonable to assume that this would help slow the deterioration of age-related brain performance.

That all sounds great, but can you get a good workout in a water fitness class? We have all seen seniors flocking to water exercise, which may lead you to believe that water fitness classes are not very strenuous. But research shows that it is possible to get a high intensity workout by taking advantage of the drag resistance of water. The amount of resistance depends on how much force you are using when you move your limbs through the water, since the harder you push, the harder the water pushes back. Small quick moves with the arms held close to the body do not take advantage of drag resistance. Higher intensities are achieved by moving the arms and legs through their full range of motion with force, moving as much water as possible. Drag resistance is experienced with every movement in every direction, which means you have a constant muscle load provided by the water. You will find that your water workout is comparable to your favorite land exercise routine. For more information on research-based health benefits of aquatic immersion and activity see 

There is one more reason to try a water fitness class. It is fun! The workout is enjoyable for most people because the child in us still likes to play in the water, the same as your child likes to play in his water class. Why not take advantage of the opportunity to make water fitness a family affair?

Christine Alexander, author

Water Fitness Lesson Plans and Choreography (2011)

Water Fitness Progressions (2019) 


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