Monday, July 03, 2000

Water workouts work

Swimming or aerobics just as good - better, for some - as 'land' exercise

By Ray Schaefer
Enquirer contributor

        A workout in the water really does make you sweat. Swimming laps and doing water exercises are aerobic, which means working up a sweat even if you don't notice it in the pool.

        “You sweat like mad,” says Hallie Hundemer, who coordinates swimming lessons at Four Seasons Country Club in Crestview Hills. “It is humanly possible to perspire in the water; it's the same as if you were playing tennis or basketball.”

        Joan Dressman, who attends water aerobics classes at Four Seasons, said she's winded after an hour in the pool.

        “I feel like I need oxygen,” says Mrs. Dressman, 71, of Erlanger.

  To be aerobic, water exercises have to make the heart work between 60 and 85 percent of your maximum capacity. You can measure your heart rate by taking your pulse. Count the number of beats per minute. Here is a formula for calculating optimum heart rates during aerobic exercise:
  Subtract your age (in years) from 220. The sum represents the maximum safe heart rate.
  Multiply that total by 0.60 to get your minimum exercise rate.
  Multiply the same total by 0.85 for maximum exercise rate.
  Source: Mercy HealthPlex, Anderson Township.
  The Aquatic Exercise Association. Write this group at P.O. Box 1609, Nokomis, Fla. 34272, call (941) 486-8600, or visit
  The U.S. Water Fitness Association, which will provide water-walking information to people who send a self-addressed envelope, stamped with 55 cents postage, to Water Walking, USWFA, P.O. Box 3279, Boynton Beach, Fla. 33424.
  “Water Exercise,” by Martha White, “Water Fitness After 40,” by Ruth Sova and “Fantastic Water Workouts,” by MaryBeth Pappas Gaines, all published by Human Kinetics. They can be ordered by calling 1-800-747-4457.
        Swimming or water aerobics provides great aerobic exercise but, taken alone, is not enough for a full fitness workout.

        People still have to control their diet and increase their metabolism by adding muscle, says Matt Stitzel, aquatics director at the Fairfield YMCA.

Whole-body workout
        The working heart rate during water aerobics is 10-15 points lower doing dry land exercise, but the blood flows more smoothly in the water, says Kathy McIntosh , who teaches the water exercise classes at Four Seasons. It is possible to drop up to 10 pounds in one to two months by doing water aerobics.

        Because swimming involves arms and legs, it provides a whole-body workout. But if you are wondering if doing laps with a floatation device can help you lose fat specifically off your thighs, the answer is no. Heredity determines where on the body fat is stored, Mr. Stitzel said.

        “Spot reducing is not possible with any activity. To lose fat, you have to be in calorie deficit, either by burning more or taking in less.”

        Like other exercise programs, the benefit you get from paddling through the water depends on the effort you put into it. Experts are at odds over exactly how many calories you can burn in water exercise.

        According to the Web site, it's possible to burn between 450-700 calories in a one-hour water workout.

        Mr. Stitzel places the figure at 200-500, depending on the fitness level at the beginning of the program.

        Ms. Hundemer said it's possible to burn between 160 and 340 calories in an hour-long water aerobics workout.

        That is enough to burn off a bagel with cream cheese or a double-decker hamburger.

        Boots Pauly, a 73-year-old Edgewood woman, says she has lost five pounds since she began doing water aerobics. So why hasn't she lost more? “If I quit eating so much, I'd do better,” she says.

Easy on joints
        Water aerobics and swimming are alternatives for people whose joints can't take the pounding of a run or three sets on the tennis court.

        Water aerobics classes are generally conducted in chest- or shoulder-high water, though deep-water programs are available.

        “For people with disabilities or who are obese, water's the perfect modality,” said Jennifer Mayer, aquatics director at Mercy HealthPlex in Anderson Township. “When you're at chest depth, you're only 25 percent of your body weight. If you're at shoulder depth you're only 10 percent.”

        A typical class includes dance steps, work with foam rubber “noodles,” in which two people pull each other forward and back, and “water bells,” which work like dumbbells in the gym.


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