Eating properly, staying social, getting exercise are three of the best ways to keep a healthy body and mind throughout your life. Some of these are especially important as we age. One of the biggest threats for older individuals is falling. According to a study in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science, about one third of the elderly population in the United States experiences at least one fall per year. These falls are costly. In the United States, the total direct cost of fall injuries for older individuals reached $20 billion, this number is expected to increase to $44 billion by 2020.
Staying healthy can become more difficult as we age, but there are a number of alternative exercises that you can participate in to make this easier. One such example is aquatic exercises. Participating in a water-based exercise program would allow older individuals to gain all the advantages of land-based exercises without the stress on joints, easing the pain on them and allowing them to exercise safely.
There is much evidence that not only are aquatic exercises safer for older individuals, they can also be very effective in maintaining and improving health. One study found that aquatic exercise can be just as beneficial as other exercises.
“Aquatic exercise has been shown to have similar cardiovascular and musculoskeletal benefits for older people as ‘on the ground’ aerobic exercise,” the study said.
Benefits of Aquatic Exercises
Obviously, any exercise will help the body maintain a healthy weight and cardiovascular system, but there are some distinct benefits of participating in aquatic exercises specifically.
One reason that aquatic exercises can be more beneficial is that it is generally safer. As our limbs begin to age and our vision gets worse, older individuals are more likely to risk having a fall that can cause a major injury and may even be life-threatening.
The likelihood of falling is increased when performing exercises such as weight lifting or running. However, exercising in water is an easy way to maintain balance and even improve balance when out of the water. If a senior does happen to make a misstep in the pool, it is much easier to recover and catch themselves using the water to become balanced again.
Another benefit of aquatic exercise is that it is a form of strength training. While aerobic exercises in a pool can improve endurance and balance, there is also a resistance factor. Moving the arms and legs in the water, against resistance, is a good way to build or maintain muscle without having to use heavy weights.
It is also important to note that participating in water-based exercises can be effective for individuals that have current medical limitations like arthritis.
“There is an increasing body of evidence that aqua therapy increases fitness and mobility in patients with rheumatoid arthritis without exacerbating their symptoms,” a study found. “The use of [aquatic therapy] to increase buoyancy would allow arthritic persons to gain the full benefits of aerobic exercise with no strain or pressure on tender joints.”
There is also some evidence that water exercises are known to cause the less exercise-induced asthma than other forms of physical activity.
Effectiveness of Aqua Exercise Therapy
While there are many benefits to aquatic exercises, there is one question that remains: is it effective? There’s no point in participating in these types of exercises if they don’t actually do anything, but that is not the case.
There is much evidence that participating in water exercises at a facility can have a positive impact on the health-related quality of life, improving both physical and mental health. It can also be effective in improving exercise habits.
According to a study published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science, aqua aerobic therapy was shown to be effective in helping with weight and body fat maintenance. In the study they compared a control group to a group utilizing water exercises, they found a significant reductions in weight and body fat mass.
The study also found significant increases in flexibility, balance, strength, power, and agility.
“The increasing risk of falls increases with aging, and the aims of this study were to investigate whether aqua exercise therapy can help the elderly by preventing falls and improving their gait patterns after a perturbation,” the study said. “Our results are similar to those of previous studies which have reported that 12 weeks aqua therapy exercise improves lower body strength power, flexibility, agility, and balance. Also, due to the training effect the weight and body fat mass was reduced, whereas no significant changes were seen in these variables in the control group.”
However, the study does mention that more studies need to be done on subjects with low bone density to see how exactly this type of exercise will help those individuals. But there is some evidence that water exercise can have a positive effect on the bone status of older women.
Exercising as we age can become more and more difficult but water-based exercise is one way to make staying healthy easier. Participating in an aquatic-based exercise program may not only be safer for you, but can be just as effective in maintaining and improving health as land-based exercise. There is evidence that aquatic therapy can help increase flexibility, balance, strength, power and agility. On a similar note, exercising in water can put older individuals at less risk of injury through falls and can also help individuals who suffer from arthritis get through a full workout. If you or a loved one needs help eating properly and participating in social events, perhaps an assisted living facility can help.
At Landmark Senior Living, our residents have access to the care they need while also being provided with social gatherings and other events that will keep them happy as they enter the later stages of their lives. If you wish to learn more about our independent and assisted living facilities or would like a complimentary walk through of one of our buildings, please reach out to our admissions team to learn about the path forward.