If the demands of a vigorous workout — biking, running, or brisk walking — put too much wear and tear on your body, you might want to consider hitting the pool. New research has found water-based workouts offer the same aerobic benefits as more traditional land-based exercise programs, but put far less stress on the body.
The study, presented by Montreal Heart Institute researchers at a meeting of the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress in Toronto this week, suggests water workouts may be a viable option for individuals who are seriously overweight, suffer from joint problems, injuries, or other physical limitations that make traditional workouts too tough.
"If you can't train on land, you can train in the water and have the same benefits in terms of improving aerobic fitness," said lead researcher Dr. Martin Juneau.
He said people might assume that exercising in the water can't be as valuable as exercising on land because you can’t move as well or work as hard when in a pool. But the new study found people who used an immersible ergocycle — essentially an exercise bike in a pool — had an equivalent workout to when they used a traditional stationary bike.
To reach their conclusions, Juneau and colleagues had a group of healthy people perform exercise tests on both the land and water cycling machines (with water up to chest level). The results showed the test subjects’ maximal oxygen consumption — which indicates whether it was a good workout — was virtually the same using both types of bikes. They also found the heart rate of the participants was a little lower in the water.
"You pump more blood for each beat, so don't need as many heartbeats, because the pressure of the water on your legs and lower body makes the blood return more effectively to the heart,” Juneau. “That's interesting data that hasn't been studied thoroughly before."
He added that swimming may be the best exercise of all but not everyone can swim. With the workout benefits, the low stress of moving in the water, and the reduced chance of injury, water-bike exercising " is a great alternative," he said.