Water Exercises for Seniors

by Marcy Brinkley

Overview

Water workouts can help adults over the age of 55 build strength, endurance and flexibility without injuring their muscles or joints. Aerobic activity in the water can help older adults meet the goal of exercising at moderate intensity at least two and 1/2 hours or at vigorous intensity at least one and 1/4 hours per week, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Water workouts can also improve strength, balance and flexibility, and are suitable for those unable to exercise effectively on land because of obesity, age, injury or illness.

Warm-Ups

Seniors need to warm up for at least 10 minutes before engaging in strenuous activity, warns MaryBeth Pappas Baun, author of "Fantastic Water Workout." Water walking in waist-high or deeper water prepares the muscles, joints and cardiovascular system for exercise. Begin by striding forward eight steps, then back four steps, swinging your arms in opposition to your legs. Wear aqua shoes for traction and foot protection.

Stretching

Older adults need to stretch for at least 5 minutes after warming up and 10 to 15 minutes at the end of the workout to cool down and prevent soreness. Stretch the neck, back and all extremities using static stretch movements -- slow movements held for a short period of time -- or try water yoga and water Tai Chi routines.

Water Jogging

Jogging or walking briskly in waist-high or chest-high water provides similar benefits to performing the same activity on land without the impact on the body, and can also burn about 500 calories per hour, reports AARP. Water jogging can also be done in deep water if you want more resistance, but be sure to wear a flotation belt to keep yourself upright.

Water Aerobics

Water aerobics is a moderate-intensity workout set to music that works the upper and lower body in shallow or deep water. The buoyancy of the water prevents stress on the body while the resistance requires you to work harder. A typical water aerobics routine combines kicks, jumping jacks, skiing, lunges, hops and dance moves with coordinated arm movements to provide an all-inclusive workout.

Water Strength Training

Strengthen, firm and tone the muscles by working out in the water where movements are more effective and more challenging than on land, reports AARP. All major muscles can be worked using the water's resistance alone or in combination with water dumbbells, fins, webbed gloves and ankle cuffs. If performed in deep water, use a water noodle or other flotation device to keep yourself upright. Begin slowly and build up to a more intense workout.

Lap Swimming

Swimming laps back and forth is a low-impact activity, so AARP recommends combining it with other forms of water exercise to provide strength and flexibility benefits. If you are not accustomed to lap swimming, begin slowly and build up to swimming at least 20 minutes three times a week.

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.