Beat the Heat with Water Walking & Running
In the midst of this summer heat, what could be better than exercising in the pool?! Walking or running in the water can be a great alternative for those who are injured, frail, or looking to change up their routine in the summer. When we are immersed in water up to our belly buttons approximately 50% of our body weight is eliminated by buoyancy, and up to 60% of our body weight is eliminated if we are immersed up to our chests (Kaneda et al, 2012). By eliminating a large percentage of our body weight, we take a lot of load and strain off of our joints.
Walking or running in the water is still a great work out. Due to the drag created when walking or running in the water, one’s speed will decrease to half or one third of that when walking or running on land, and yet the metabolic intensity will remain the same (Kaneda et al, 2012). Our gait will change with walking or running in the water as compared to on land. In the water our stride frequency decreases while the duration of each stride increases as we move against the water (Kaneda et al, 2012). Additionally, we spend more time swinging our leg and less time in the stance phase of walking or running when we’re in the water (Kaneda et al, 2012). In summary, all of these slight changes; slower speed, lower stride frequency, and longer stride duration culminate into an environment with increased stability and control of movement which increases safety and reduces the rate of falling accidents during exercise (Kaneda et al, 2012).
Not only do the muscles in our legs, thighs, and glutes work hard when training in the water, but the muscles in our lower back and core are forced to work hard as well as a result of a forced forward inclination that occurs when training in the water (Kaneda et al, 2012). The literature also suggests that exercising in the water is safe for those suffering from joint problems, as the power for every joint is reduced greatly in the water as compared to on land (Kaneda et al, 2012). As such, walking or running in the water is a great form of exercise for those suffering from arthritis, those with hip or knee replacements, osteoporosis, and even those in recovery from a stroke (Kaneda et al, 2012). The literature shows improved balance in those who train in the water post-stroke, as well as a decreased strength discrepancy between legs after a joint replacement (Kaneda et al, 2012).
As always, if you are about to undertake a new form of exercise, start gradually, and seek the guidance of a health professional for any rehabilitation needs! Please take note, it is still extremely important to hydrate while exercising in the water! Stay safe out there in the heat!
Dr. Julia Callaghan, BSc (Hons), DC, ART,
CSCS, Contemporary Medical Acupuncture
Kaneda, K., McKean, M., Ohgi, Y., & Burkett, B. Walking and Running Kinesiology in Water: A Review of the Literature. (2012). Journal of Fitness Research 1: 1-11.