9 benefits of aquarobics for seniors

When we enter our senior years, we face the challenge of doing enough physical activity to keep fit while avoiding injury from falls and joint issues. Aquarobics or water aerobics, along with other water-based exercises, can be the perfect answer to this dilemma. Aquarobics is an effective way to keep active, especially if you have chronic health conditions such as arthritis, joint problems, and circulation issues.1

Here, we look at some of the benefits aquarobics can provide for seniors who want to stay active.

Works out the heart muscles

Although it’s low impact in nature, aquarobics – which involves traditional aerobics modified for level water – is suitable for taking heart rate up.2 As we advance in years, it’s more important than ever to work out our heart muscles and improve circulation. Water-based exercises offers resistance training through the hydrostatic pressure of water across the whole body surface, which offers additional benefits for balance, coordination, and mobility. This light aerobic capacity of aquarobics can reduce the risk of heart disease,2 an important consideration for seniors.

Enhances balance and coordination

A natural effect of advancing years is reduced coordination, and aquarobics – along with the water’s supportive functions for the human body – can counteract this.2 Seniors who are experiencing poor coordination can continue working on building balance and expanding their strength and physical control in safer, more supportive conditions.

Aquarobics exercises the entire body, allowing individuals to cultivate improved coordination and control and range of movement.

Easy on the joints

Unlike running and on-land aerobics, aquarobics is easy on the joints.3 The buoyancy of water supports the weight of the body and mitigates against the impact of gravity, which allows the exerciser to land easily. The reduced impact on the knees, hips, back, and ankles gives aquarobics a protective quality when it comes to more delicate joints, tendons, and ligaments, thereby reducing the risk of injuries and damage such as muscle soreness, stress fractures, and even broken bones.3

Reduces risk of injury

For seniors, one major risk associated with exercise is that of falling, which can arise from a decline in balance along with bone fragility.4 For some seniors, this is quite pronounced to the degree that it limits their exercise options. The supportive quality of water makes it easier for seniors to stay balanced when in the water, and stops short what would otherwise be a high-impact fall even when we do lose our balance in the water.

Weight loss and metabolism

With increasing rates of obesity and being overweight in Australia is a major contributor to the burden of disease.5 Seniors, who are at higher risk of developing chronic disease need to look to staying active as part of their weight-control efforts. Studies indicate aquarobics and other water-based physical activities can increase metabolism.6

Research shows that water-based exercises such as aquarobics have major benefits for people who are overweight or obese.7 For example, as water offers more resistance than air, simply walking in water will burn more calories than regular walking. Likewise, underwater treadmills offer more weight-loss benefits than land-based treadmills.7

Builds muscle mass and strength

By offering a safer exercise option for seniors, aquarobics makes it easier to build muscle mass or to slow down the decline of muscle mass associated with aging.6

Lifting weights in the water, for example, is a direct way to build extra strength, with weight lifting in the water demonstrated to improve strength in key areas such as the quadriceps and the hamstrings by 27% and 40%, respectively.6

If you are looking to build muscle mass and strength, you might be able to reap similar benefits by using weights during your aquarobic routine, but always check with your instructor and/or your doctor before if you have any doubts.

Recovery from injury

For seniors recovering from a fall or on rehabilitation from operations such as hip replacements, aquarobics can be a suitable form of exercise. The water provides a degree of buoyant support that enables you to stay active and exercise your joints and muscles without the heavy impact and strain of land-based physical activity.3 With the guidance of your doctor, you may find that aquarobics and water-based activities such as walking, arm reaches, leg raises, and swimming to be relatively painless and restorative.

Chronic conditions

Arthritis and other chronic joint and muscle conditions are common amongst seniors, and aquarobics offers a way for those who have these conditions to stay active and healthy. The supportive nature of the water reduces impact on the joints and supports full range of movement to improve flexibility, strength, endurance, and general fitness.3

Exercising in heated pools can offer the additional benefit of pain reduction, especially for those with chronic joint or tissue conditions.8

Social benefits

Socialisation is associated with positive health impacts for seniors.9 Group aquarobics classes provide a socialisation benefit, which can be a motivator for people of all groups to try and maintain new exercise regimes. Seniors can enjoy exercising with others as well as the opportunity to develop new friendships that go beyond classes. In addition, the social nature of group classes can encourage you to maintain your exercise program,so if you are more likely to continue with an ongoing exercise routine because you enjoy working out and meeting others, aquarobics is the place for you.

Types of water-based activities to try

Aquarobics is not the only water-based exercise that seniors can explore. Other forms of exercise include water yoga, ai chi, and even water pilates.2

  • Water yoga – Try water-based yoga exercises that have been adapted for the water, including breathing exercises and stretching to improve balance, alignment, lengthening, and relaxing. Water yoga can relieve any aches and pains while building coordination.
  • Ai chi – Usually carried out in shoulder-deep water, ai chi is similar to tai chi and can be used to build strength throughout the whole body while improving balance and encouraging relaxation.
  • Water pilates – Also carried out in shoulder-deep water, water pilates uses equipment such as pool noodles, rings, foam rollers, and water weights along with the pool wall and floor to build strength and flexibility.