Turn your pool into an outdoor gym for added health benefits

It’s time to open the backyard pool and begin a new season of outdoor living. For most pool owners, a quick dip and relaxing ride on the raft are beautiful things to look forward to at the end of a hard day. But this year, you may want to consider how you can easily turn your pool into an outdoor gym.

Since the buoyancy of water supports 90 percent of the body, practically anyone can do aquatic exercises, which provide benefits in terms of fitness and health. And because people enjoy playing in the water, why not use the water to tone muscle and shape the body? It’s a great supplement to any workout you may already do on land.

Water exercises are among the most effective and safest ways to get yourself into shape. You can burn off several hundred calories in a single session. Go at your own pace using routines you can manage easily, such as water walking or running, strength and flexibility exercises, balance and aerobics. You can add workouts for the arms and legs, as well as yoga, pilates and relaxation techniques.

The popular noodle found in most backyard pools can easily be used in a workout. Floating weights add resistance to build strength and power into routines. I usually have my class participants who are just starting out focus on proper posture and breathing before working with equipment.

Water aerobics is also excellent for people recovering from an injury or surgery, or for those with health conditions like arthritis, backache, osteoporosis and so on. The body gets buoyant in water. Less stress is put on joints and ligaments, reducing the risk of injury. This is because the cushioning effect of water makes the exercises gentler on the body, while providing an effective workout. Simple jogging in water eliminates the stress of heavy impact, which can lead to quicker recovery.

Aqua-related exercise is ideal for senior citizens. Many people in this age group have age-related conditions and sometimes conventional aerobics on land can be tough on aging bodies. Water’s buffering effect protects them from such risks. Besides, the group activity that aqua aerobics provides is also an additional benefit for this age group, for it gives them an avenue for overcoming loneliness by meeting new people and forming friendships.

This is certainly true among the participants who enjoy the recreational pool at Southern New Hampshire University, where I conduct water fitness classes with two other certified instructors. It is remarkable to me that women in their 80s come to three or four classes per week in all kinds of weather to take part in a regular exercise program where they exercise at their own pace and use their bodies in ways that they simply could not do on land. Participants range in ages from 40s to 80s and work in shallow and deep water.

So, regardless of your fitness level, age or needs water exercise can be right for you.

If you would like some information regarding adult individual and group sessions in your pool or at SNHU, email AquaFit Training at john@johnhartnett.com.

John Hartnett, of Bedford, teaches water fitness classes at Southern New Hampshire University.