Surprising Research on Water Exercises and Bone Density
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then you’re a great candidate to try water-based exercises!
Water-based exercise (WBE) is more than a novelty. It’s a great, low-impact exercise for seniors with minimal risk of injury. What’s more, research proves WBE can have positive effects on bone mineral density, similar to land-based exercises (LBE).
A recent meta-analysis published in the Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine showed promising results for WBE. As you may know, a meta-analysis combines the results from several studies to come to a conclusion. This meta-analysis looked at 11 separate studies on WBE versus either LBE or no activity.
In total, 629 postmenopausal women participated in the 11 studies. Several of the studies showed positive results for WBE when it came to bone density. In fact, researchers found WBE may slow age-related bone loss in a “statistically significant” way.
That said, the study stressed that LBE are still superior to WBE when it comes to healthy bones. So if you’re physically able, I’d still recommend doing your exercises on land rather than water. If you do struggle to do LBE however, a healthy dose of WBE is better than no exercise at all!
In summary, this study proves that for those of us who have difficulties with LBE, WBE can be a great alternative while still improving bone health.
Now, before you start a new regimen, I recommend reading through these exercise tips for seniors. Once you have, joining a WBE class at your local community center or pool is the best way to enjoy these helpful exercises.
But if you want to go it alone or would like to learn more about WBE first, below are a few exercises you can try the next time you find yourself in the water! For each of the following exercises, try 10 reps of each, repeated twice, for a total of 20 repetitions. If an exercise calls for both sides of your body, make sure each side gets 20 repetitions total.
- Pool walk. Ensure you’re in chest-deep water. Simply alternate between walking forward and backward. You can add light weights as well to increase resistance and the benefits for your bones.
- Leg raises. Hold on to the edge of the pool with one hand and your body facing sideways. Lift and stretch one leg right out in front of you, while you stand firmly on the other leg, which is slightly bent. Alternate between legs. This will stretch and strengthen muscles in your leg, hip, and lower back.
- Wall-facing leg stretch. Float on top of the water with your stomach facing down. Put your hands against the side of the pool, with your body and legs extended behind you. This position stretches your back and joints, along with your shoulder muscles.
- Knee-to-chest reps. Hold on to the edge of the pool with one hand and your body facing sideways. Stretch one of your legs out in front of you, keeping the other firmly planted on the bottom of the pool with a soft bend in the knee of your supporting leg. Bring your outstretched leg back towards you until your knee nearly touches your chest — do not bend forward or change your posture to do this. This movement also strengthens and stretches the muscles in the leg, hip, and lower back.
- Extended arm swivels. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and rest your arms on the surface of the water. Then gently turn your body to the right, swinging your left arm in front of you and your right arm behind you. Keep your elbows straight and in the water throughout. Repeat in the other direction.
So, what do you think? Would you be willing to try WBE the next time you’re at a pool? Maybe you’ll even make a point to go to the pool for that very purpose!
Not only can these aquatic exercises be helpful for your muscles, joints, and bones, but they can be fun too! If you’re looking for strengthening exercises that are gentle on the body, I highly recommend them.
By Dean Neuls
Dean Neuls is the Co-Founder and CEO of AlgaeCal. He is a natural health author and student of bone health science who is passionate about helping people & bettering lives.