Make a Splash: Pool Exercises for Seniors

pool exercise

Perhaps at one point in your life, you used to exercise on a regular basis. But what about now? Many seniors don’t exercise, and if you’ve let physical activity fall by the wayside, you’re not alone. There are many reasons why we tend to exercise less as we age, one of them being the fear of sustaining an injury while we work out. Wearing an Alert1 medical alert pendant like the On-the-Go Medical Alert can help you feel safer when exercising, and there are many ways to exercise that are perfect for seniors' specific wellness needs.1 Exercising in the pool is a great way for seniors to stay active while also feeling safe.

Water resistance makes exercising in the water specifically beneficial for seniors. First, it makes it more difficult to get injured from quick, jerky movements since the water will act like a cushion. Similarly, for seniors who are worried about fall risks, exercising in a pool can soften the blow of any slips or mishaps before they can turn into a serious injury. The water resistance makes it difficult to truly fall while you're in the water, and if you do happen to slip or stumble, you only need to float your way to safety. Second, the water resistance forces you to put more effort into moving, which makes it a great way to exercise. Simple movements like walking are more difficult to execute in the water, but that slow-motion way of moving will help to keep you safe from injuries and will also burn more calories and build more muscle than walking on dry land.


Because of the attributes of water resistance, exercising in the pool is a great way for people with joint pain or injuries to get moving again. In fact, moving through water is a form of physical therapy that can lessen pain, increase muscular strength, flexibility and endurance, enhance joint mobility and stability, and improve balance, coordination and cardiovascular endurance. According to Select Physical Therapy, aquatic therapy can be used to treat conditions like arthritis, back pain, balance disorders, chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, neurological disorders, obesity, and post-surgery recovery.2


Safety in the Pool

Being in the pool can help keep you safe from injuries while exercising, and it is also an excellent way to improve existing medical conditions, but it’s still important to be aware of other safety measures while you're in the pool. One of the most important things you can do to stay safe in the pool is to make sure that you don’t swim alone. Public pools will typically have lifeguards on duty to keep you safe while you swim. If you know there is supposed to be a lifeguard at your chosen facility, don’t go swimming unless you see a lifeguard on the stand. While most pools are prepared to handle emergency situations, it’s also important for you to keep yourself safe by following all of the rules while you’re at the pool.


If you're swimming at home or somewhere you know there will not be a lifeguard, make sure you have someone with you while you’re swimming who can help you if an emergency should occur. An easy way to call for help in any emergency is to use a medical alert device. Alert1’s mobile systems like the On-the-Go Wrist Watch Medical Alert are perfect for on-the-go use.3 The watch’s built-in pedometer also makes it a great tool for seniors who like to stay moving on dry land.


But what pool exercises are good for seniors? Usually exercising in the water mainly consists of aerobic activities.


Aerobic vs Anaerobic Exercise

According to celebrity trainer Luke Milton, “Aerobic exercise is when you exercise with oxygen, and anaerobic exercise is done without oxygen.”4 Aerobic exercise will usually make you breathe more quickly because the oxygen you breathe is used to fuel your muscles, especially your heart, which pumps more to get the oxygenated blood flowing throughout your body. Conversely, anaerobic exercise is fueled by energy that’s already in your body and is used to build muscle mass.5 Because of the way water resistance affects your body movements, almost all exercises in the pool are aerobic movements.


Water Aerobics

In a previous blog post, we talked about how working out in the water is a great way to exercise in the summer heat.6 There are so many benefits of water aerobics, and there are so many different aerobic exercises that can be done in the pool. Here are some examples.


·         Water walking - This is probably one of the best and most popular forms of water exercise. It’s easy to feel the water resistance when doing this exercise, which means that it’s working. When performing this exercise, it’s important not to hop through the water. The water resistance will make walking normally difficult, but it’s important to hold your form and walk as if you were on dry land in order for the movement to work its magic.


·         Aqua Zumba - Zumba is always fun, but it’s extra fun in the water…and maybe even more of a workout. Zumba is already a great form of cardio outside of the water, but the water resistance makes it even more of a workout in the pool. The best way to do aqua Zumba is through a class. Having an instructor and other people to exercise with will keep the energy high and help you stay motivated. With the music playing, aqua Zumba is where high energy meets low impact.


·         Lap swimming - It's an oldy, but a goody. Gliding through the water can feel rejuvenating. Seniors should take their time when swimming laps and focus on the quality of their strokes. Slow, even movements will take less of a toll on your body and help improve your muscle mass more than trying to race with the person next to you.


·         One-leg stand - Looking to improve your balance? Practice makes perfect, and one-leg stands done in the pool can help you to improve your balance without the fear of injury from falling over when your balance is off.


·         Water bicycle - While there may actually be some real aqua bicycles out there somewhere, you don’t need them to do this exercise. According to Choose PT, all you need for this exercise is a pool noodle or two for support and some deep water. “In deeper water, loop one or two noodles around the back of your body and rest your arms on top of the noodle for support. Move your legs as if you are riding a bicycle.”7


·         Water lunges - It’s just as it sounds: you do a lunge in the water. This is a great exercise for people who are concerned about their elderly knees or for people who’ve had knee replacement surgery and have limited knee-mobility out of the water. Water lunges are great if you’re trying to work your way up to having more range of movement on land, but if you frequently experience knee pain, make sure this movement is smart for your level of activity before you start exercising. The best place to do this exercise is in water that sits just above your hips when you’re standing upright. You want to have enough water around you so that you can feel the resistance, but you also don’t want to submerge your face when you go down into the lunge.


Poolside Safety

While exercising in the pool is a great way for seniors to get moving and prevent injuries, there are still injuries that seniors need to be aware of. For starters, the area surrounding the pool is typically wet, and this can lead to slipping. Here are some tips to avoid injuries by the pool.


Don’t rush - While most of us know that we shouldn’t run by the poolside, when we’re in a hurry, we tend to pick up the pace. Even if we’re not running, many of us will speed walk or try to walk as fast as we can. No matter how tempting it may be to rush around the poolside, it’s more important to slow down the pace and stay safe in order to avoid injuries. Your safety is of the utmost importance, and nothing will slow you down more than having to wait for paramedics.


Wear shoes - Most of us wear shoes to and from the pool, but sometimes when walking around an aqua complex, shoes don’t seem to be necessary, especially if you’ll only be walking a short distance through lots of puddles. However, this only makes shoe-wearing even more important. Shoes provide the traction needed to prevent slipping on wet surfaces. In order to make sure you don’t go too far without your shoes, a pick a spot that will be close to where you’ll be swimming and getting in and out of the pool to place your belongings, and if you decide to move to a different area, try to bring your stuff with you and wear your shoes while you're moving.


Avoid flip flops - Many people choose to wear flip flops when going to the pool because they’re cheap, water resistant, and easy to slide on and off even the wettest of feet, but for seniors who are concerned about fall risks, flip flops are not as fun as they sound. Flip flops have the tendency to flop right off your feet, even while you’re walking, posing a tripping hazard. The best shoes you can wear by the pool are shoes that connect to the back of your feet. There are plenty of water-resistant shoes with this feature, and there are even shoes that are designed to be worn in the water. Water shoes tend to have really good traction, and you can wear these shoes while you're swimming and not have to worry about putting on a pair of secure shoes when you get out of the pool.


Dry off - Since water follows gravity down to your feet, your feet are usually one of the last places to get dry. When it comes to preventing slipping and fall risks, wet feet are a no go. Even when wearing the right shoes, wet feet on a water-resistant surface can lead to your feet sliding around from within your shoe! Slipping around inside your shoes can lead to a twisted ankle or worse. It’s important to make sure you take the time to dry off when you're by the poolside in order to avoid injuries.


Have a medical alert system - Medical alert systems can help to keep you safe even if your workout is already done. Whether you’re coming out of the pool, getting changed in the locker room, or on your way home, wearing an Alert1 On-the-Go Medical Alert System with GPS and Fall Detection can help to keep you safe wherever you are by automatically detecting falls and contacting appropriate care for help.8


Whether you’re exercising or lounging by the pool this summer, Alert1 wishes you health and safety while you make a splash!