Among others, there are two things injury and pregnancy have in common for the average active woman; weight gain and the inability to perform certain exercises previously a part of the daily workout regimen. Fortunately, if not ironically, there is a solution for both; water exercise. Water exercise comes in various forms, the most common are lap swimming, water walking, and water aerobics. For both pregnancy and most stress related injuries, water aerobics is often the most beneficial type of water fitness activity. Water aerobics, by definition, is a safe, low impact exercise program that utilizes the natural buoyancy and resistance of the water to enhance cardiovascular conditioning, strength and flexibility.
While exercising in the water, the natural buoyancy properties only require that the body support 50% of its weight. Furthermore, 50%-80% of bone and joint stress is absorbed by the water when exercising in chest deep water, due to the same property. The warmth of the water also creates a soothing environment for relieving pain and stiffness. As pregnancy or injury may cause inflammation and stiffness, immersing in warm water raises ones body temperature, causing your blood vessels to dilate, increasing circulation and alleviating swelling and rigidity. This means that for those coping with achy feet, joints, back, breasts, or those suffering a stress fracture, plantar fasciitis, stressed muscles, or other similar injuries, the swimming pool could become an oasis of relief for these issues.
Another beneficial characteristic of water fitness is that water naturally lends itself to strength training as it provides resistance in all directions. In fact, the water provides 12-14 times more resistance than air during land exercises. This means then that both flexion/extension and abduction/adduction may be performed with little to no need for added weight while receiving the same benefits as the weighted move on land. Moreover, most exercises executed on land may be performed in a similar manner in the water with the added benefit of the water aiding in balance, reducing the risk of a stress related injury, and allowing high impact exercises to be performed in a low impact environment.
There is a branch of water aerobics designed specifically for expectant mothers, called Pre-Natal Water Aerobics. The exercises performed in the 30-60 minute long classes are based on the particular needs and limitations of a mom-to-be. Depending on the structure of the course, participating in a pre-natal water aerobics class can provide mothers with time of quiet relaxation, away from the stresses of daily living, which has been shown to create a calming effect for both mother and baby as well as lower blood pressure and anxiety which prevents supplemental health issues during a pregnancy. On the other hand, involvement in a pre-natal water fitness class creates a community, designed specifically for women in a similar situation, allowing for a special camaraderie among participants to share struggles, fears, excitement, and tips as they experience pregnancy together.
Maintaining activity during pregnancy has been shown to lower blood pressure, which causes less strain on the heart and other organs. Continuing exercise also retains a fit and flexible body, which creates the opportunity for an easier labor and delivery and creates a smoother transition into recovery and weight loss post-pregnancy.
One of the best features of water aerobics, water walking, aqua step or water yoga, is that you don’t have to have to know how to swim to participate. Most of the activity is performed in the shallow end or in a shallow pool designed specifically for the program. Furthermore, use of equipment such as deep-water exercise belts, noodles, floating dumbbells, and kickboards act as a type of pfd (personal floatation device) when entering deeper areas of the pool. There is also other equipment designed specifically for water fitness to aid in strengthening core muscles, legs hips and the upper body, as well as improving cardiovascular respiratory condition, such as webbed gloves and paddles, water weights, steps, water fitness balls (similar to medicine balls), flippers, and resistance bands.
So, if you are a runner and due to injury, you find yourself unable to do the thing you love most, head towards the pool. With a deep-water belt and some shoes, you’ll be experiencing running like never before, without the added risk of aggregating the injury. Or if you love the feeling of being fit and healthy, and find that you are expecting a new little addition to your family, good news! The water provides a safe, risk free environment, where you can escape the stress of life and congregate with other mothers-to-be, meanwhile modifying your daily exercise routine to keep both baby and mother healthy.