Underwater Cycling Provides Great Fitness Without Stress

Underwater fitness isn’t just for people at the YMCA, it has real application for aging athletes looking to maintain a level of fitness in the face of injury, arthritis, and other physical issues.

For aging athletes or even those of us approaching “mature athlete” status, working out can become more of a challenge. As we age, conditions such as arthritis and injury-related issues become more problematic in our attempts to continue training, lifting, running, and so forth. A recent study presented at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress focused on a less stressful alternative to the standard methods of working out – exercise in a pool.

The study participants performed exercise tests on both land-based and water-based cycling machines, or ergocycles. When performing the exercises in the water, the water was up to chest level. Every minute the cycling intensity was increased until participants reached exhaustion.1

The results of the study indicated that those who used the underwater ergocycle had just about the equivalent workout to those who used the standard stationary bike. The maximal oxygen consumption from each exercise test was almost the same. Another finding discovered through the study was that the heart rate of the participants in the water was actually a little lower compared to those on land. Dr. Juneau, director of prevention at the Montreal Heart Institute explained the reason for this is because you pump more blood each time the heart beats, and you do not need as many heart beats since the pressure of the water on your legs and lower body makes the blood return more effectively to the heart. Juneau points out that this is unique data not thoroughly studied before.2

People often write off exercise due to age, joint problems, or mobility issues but this study shows a viable solution. Although swimming may be a great, low-impact exercise, not everyone can swim. However, Dr. Juneau points out that using an exercise bike in a pool is a great alternative since you still receive the workout benefits and lower stress of moving in the water, which results in a lowered chance of injury.3

While you might not think the underwater aerobics at the YMCA are for you, studies like this show that underwater exercise should not be written off – there are good uses for it, especially as we athletes age. Heart and Stroke Foundation spokesperson Dr. Beth Abramson sums it up nicely when she says, “Even if you have difficulty moving more, there are always solutions, as this study shows.”4

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

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