Walking in Water
While walking is a great exercise that burns calories and improves your cardiovascular conditioning without subjecting the body to the stresses of running, it is not impact free. For those considerably obese, with significant joint pain, or any number of medical conditions there is an alternative: walking in water. Walking in water instead of on a track, street or sidewalk provides many advantages. Walking in water is less jarring on the joints, thus relieving much of the stress cause by walking on hard surfaces. In addition, the water provides resistance (12 times more than air), which increases the intensity of your workout. This increases the calories burned per mile of walking and likely increases the amount of calories you burn per hour of walking.
Where to Water Walk
The pool is the safest place to walk in the water. The walking surface is consistent, flat and provides reasonable traction. For the more adventurous, a lake or even the ocean can be used, but there is a greater risk of slipping or stumbling on the uneven and sometimes slick surface. Additionally, in most lakes and pools you can’t see the bottom, so there is an added risk to placing your foot on something unstable or hazardous.
Water Walking Technique
Walking in water follows a similar technique to traditional land-based walking. Beginner should walk in waist deep water and progress to chest deep water as they become more comfortable and fit. Walk with an upright posture, taking care not to lean forward or backward as well as not swaying from one side or the other. Use your arms as you would in traditional walking and start by walking with a land-based lower leg motion. However, as you progress you may wish to raise your knees in a marching like motion to increase the intensity. Similarly, as you advance, you can increase your intensity by incorporating the concepts of interval or farlek training. By walking faster than normal for short intervals you can increase the cardiovascular benefits. To do this, walk for 10 minutes at a regular pace. Then after you’ve warmed up, try walking faster for 1 minute and at your normal pace for 1 minute. You can repeat this sequence numerous times, with the number of repetitions dependent upon your fitness level and comfort with water walking. You may also alter your technique to incorporate more muscle groups and get a better overall workout. Two simple variations for those with good balance are to walk backward or from side to side.
Water Walking Equipment
As with traditional land-based walking, walking in water requires little equipment. Unless you are a show off and going nude, a simple bathing suit is required. Additionally, while you could walk barefoot, we recommend wearing water shoes to improve your traction. Finally, for added resistance you could add a pair of webbed gloves.
A Word of Caution
It is important to note, you may not visibly sweat when walking in water, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t sweating and losing water through your breathe. If you water in the water for more than 15 minutes, make sure you hydrate during your workout.
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