The New Wave of Watery Workouts

Get wet and get fit with aquatic exercise

By Leanna Skarnulis
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD

Last one in the water is a ... Remember this challenge from your childhood? For today's fitness-conscious adults, it has new meaning. Don't be the last person to discover the new wave of water workouts -- for strength and cardio training, flexibility, relaxation, rehabilitation, and weight management.

"We're seeing growth in both ends of the spectrum [of aquatic workouts], from high-intensity exercises like kickboxing and circuit training to mind/body workouts like ai chi, which combines tai chi and shiatsu massage," says Julie See, president of the Aquatic Exercise Association (AEA) in Nokomis, Fla. "We're working against a perception that aquatic exercise is just for old people, not the young and fit. With younger people coming into the water, we're starting to see a lot of sport-specific training and one-on-one personal training."

"If it's been a decade or more since you had a water fitness class, you'll see many changes," says Jane Katz, EdD, associate professor of health and physical education, City College of New York, and author of Aquafit: Water Workouts for Total Fitness. "Back then it would have been traditional skills of breathing, floating and swimming, which are still taught today, but with the addition of stretching and vertical exercises" done in a standing position.

Another difference, she says, is the abundance of exercise equipment. A lot of landlubber gear has made its way to the pool: handheld weights, rubber tubing, even bicycles and treadmills. Plus, the old aquatic stand-bys like fins and kickboards are no longer "one-size-fits all." They're engineered in a host of styles to suit specific applications.

Who Can Benefit From Water Exercise?