Exercise Option: Water Aerobics

Staying motivated to exercise—and staying interested in exercise—can be tough, regardless of if you have diabetes. But for those of us with diabetes, sticking with an exercise plan is especially essential. That's why I like to try different workouts, and I've discovered that water aerobics is a good workout for people with diabetes (especially those of us who are a bit older!).

Some years ago, while visiting a spa, friends asked if I'd join them in a water aerobic class. The first thing I thought was "wimp city," but they are my friends and they promised I'd like the class. It turned out to be challening!  We used weights and actually jogged and stepped in the water. We worked so hard that we were sweating in the water—a new sensation for those of us who had only done laps of the crawl in the past.

But First:  What Is Aerobic Exercise? 

Aerobics can be defined as any physical exercise that increases the heart rate and increases the body's intake of oxygen long enough to benefit the condition of the human body.

Performing simple activities such as walking, running, dancing, and swimming are defined as doing aerobic exercises. This type of exercise has been around for some years.

Why Do Water Aerobics?

Water aerobics allows a person to get the same benefits as regular aerobic workouts, but it has many advantages.

While no single exercise is perfect for everyone, water aerobics comes close by conforming to individual needs, restrictions, and abilities.

By adjusting the size and speed of your movements, you can change the level of exertion to suit your needs.

It allows a person to exercise every muscle and every joint in the body all at the same time.

Because it is done in water, you may perspire, but you will remain cooler because the water cools you off as you exert. This is one reason that water aerobics is popular in climates where the weather is quite warm.

Another benefit of water aerobics is that you can do it, no matter your age. The reason for this is because the water causes your body to be buoyant, thus causing less stress on your joints and muscles. Water aerobics is a non-weight bearing exercise where water, instead of your lower extremities, supports your weight.

It provides a great deal of resistance in all directions for your muscles to work against. This multi-directional resistance provides an excellent environment for rehabilitation of injured athletes and orthopedic patients.

But, more important for those of you who are overweight or who have not exercised for a while, this is an easy way to get back and stay in an exercise program. You'll find kindred spirits in any level class from beginner to supercharged aerobic wonders.

Now once again, we need to share with you the necessity of seeing your physician before you begin any exercise program. You will need to know if you are safe to begin a program and how much exercise and how intense your program should be.

Water Aerobic Tips for Diabetics

For those of us with diabetes, a medical identification in the form of a necklace or bracelet is mandatory.

Make sure the water temperature is ideal for caloric expenditure. The ideal location in which to perform water aerobics is an indoor pool where the water temperature is controlled. Any indoor swimming pool will suffice. Outside ponds or lakes can be used, but an indoor pool is preferred.

You can do warmups using the sides of the pool, and some of the exercises will use these also.

Most pools are chlorinated, so it's essential to shower after exercising and to use a moisturizing lotion.

Bring a special shampoo to rinse out the chemicals from your hair when you wash it after the class.

Take a 15-gram waterproof source of quick carbohydrates with you and keep it near by.

A good class can lead to dehydration as you will exert energy, so make sure you drink lots of water before, during, and after the class.

Finally, follow the safety rules of swimming when at a water aerobics class or when you are doing your exercises. The most important rule is to follow the buddy system and never swim or perform water aerobics alone.

A person does not have to know how to swim in order to take advantage of water aerobic exercising. He or she can wear one of many devices that will enable them to stay afloat with little effort. This in turn enables the person to be able to concentrate on the routine. Plus, it may help to eliminate any fear of a mishap in the water, especially in the deeper water.

Water Aerobic Examples:  It Really Is a Fun Workout

What can you do that's aerobic in a pool? You can walk, jog and run, all of which will strengthen quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes, as well develop cardio respiratory fitness. You can add ankle weights and arm weights and use a ball to push down.

Then there are the games that you can play which keep you moving in many directions, stopping and starting.

A good game of water polo can be the highlight of an advanced class.

As with any aerobic class, you will start with stretches and a warm up and end with more stretches and cool down.

You will start in lower water and move to water that is chest deep. The depth of the water will also depend on the exercise you are doing. For example, jogging is usually done in deeper water so that a person's body stays completely immersed.

While you move, the instructor will help you to use the water's resistance to your benefit. You will be taught to land in a heel-ball-toe action and maintain an upright position. This may sound easy, but, believe me, that's part of using the resistance of the water to strengthen your body.

When you walk or jog in the water, make sure you pump your arms the same way you would if you were on land.

Once you have developed a good technique that is comfortable for you, aim to walk or jog in the water for between 20 to 40 minutes per exercise session. Water aerobics has an added benefit: it enables you to burn up calories much more efficiently.

Compare the following estimates of calorie consumption for a 30-minute workout:

  • Land walking: 135 calories
  • Deep water walking: 264 calories
  • Jogging on land: 240 calories
  • Deep water jogging: 340 calories

Have we whetted your appetite yet? Please find a class and a qualified instructor who has training not only in water aerobics but in health issues, especially diabetes.

You know why you should be exercising. We talk to you about the 3-pronged approach to controlling diabetes a lot. We all know that diet, medication, and exercise are the backbone of diabetes treatment, so keeping your exercise routine anything but routine can help you better manage your diabetes, either type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes.

Updated on: October 18, 2012