Last week I discussed the physiological aspects of immersing yourself in water and the changes that occur within your body. I also mentioned several studies that substantiated healthful effects for the cardiovascular system and kidneys.
We know that an energetic water workout might leave us fatigued but joint and muscle pain are generally absent. Deep-tissue circulation improves and muscles used for respiration strengthen when we exercise in deep water. We feel euphoric.
Before exercise scientists and physiologists delved into the therapeutic benefits for humans, racehorses were improving their racetrack performance by working out in deep water. Owners discovered they could almost triple the expected competing career if they used an aquatic regimen for a significant portion of the horses’ training. Doesn’t it make sense that we mortals reap similar gain? Can a structured water fitness plan replace our land program?
It depends what you want to achieve. If stress reduction and relaxation are your primary objectives, submerging is ideal. Apparently, during the process, the balance of a certain type of hormone is altered which causes an equilibrium similar to meditation and relaxation. However, if building bone mineralization is paramount (and it should be), studies have shown that land based exercise works better. However, you can increase your strength and balance skills in H2O so that you can fortify your bones in a land fitness activity as simple as walking.
What can we expect in the future? The National Swimming Pool Foundation, a non-profit organization founded in 1965, dedicated to improving public health worldwide by encouraging healthier living through aquatic education and research, has recently awarded a one million-dollar grant to Washington State University. Researchers plan to create the National Aquatics and Sports Medicine Institute. According to Dr. Bruce Becker, a physician and research professor in WSU’s College of Education, “This will be the world’s premiere center for aquatic health research. There’s no other lab with this mission and focus. We intend to build on our initial research and fill the knowledge gaps of how water benefits our hearts, lungs and endocrine systems.”
Aquatics has been Dr. Becker’s life’s work since the 1970s. He originally focused on aquatic rehab for injured Olympic runners. Now his goal has broadened beyond the athletic community. “We need medical professionals to understand and use the benefits of aquatic exercise. The public needs to know also because you can safely do it on your own.” Concerning the mental and physical nature of immersion, Becker articulates, “Water exercise rivals meditation. You feel good, better than you do with other exercise. I want to find out what that ‘Aaah’ is about.”
I’m truly excited about the new aquatics institute. Those of us in the profession for many years have known that water is a compelling yet soothing force. Not that we need affirmation, but science will confirm what we already know. This is only the beginning for an industry that will be extremely important to our health and well-being.