March 10, 2021 6 min read

The good news is people are living longer. The Australian Bureau of Statistics states that Australians have a longer life expectancy than they did even 10 years ago.

Today, men and women are living to be close to 90 years old. The question is, what will your body be like when you are 90?

Good joint health matters

Although living longer is a wonderful thing, you still just get one body. It is up to you to take care of it. There are more than 54,000 knee replacement surgeries in just one year and about 33,000 hip replacements in Australia. The physiotherapy industry is booming in this country, too, thanks to our aging population.

Low-impact fitness options like water workouts are one way to slow down that damage and better enjoy your longer life.

What causes damage to joints? 

In one word: gravity. Over the years, gravity takes its toll on joints, especially for those who exercise regularly, play sports, or are active in some other way. Joint pain is common, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare

In Australia:

  • One in three people has a musculoskeletal condition. 
  • 2.2 million people have osteoarthritis
  • 456,000 people have rheumatoid arthritis

The remaining 5.5 million Australians with joint problems have some other type of musculoskeletal disease or injury.

The wear and tear on joints can come from a lot of places. Being overweight, for example, puts stress on the joints and connective tissue. Lifestyle choices can have an impact, too. Everything from high heels to heavy bags adds strain to backs, limbs, and joints. 

Now, tack on a high-impact exercise like running and sports such as rugby or netball. It is easy to see why so many are needing joint replacements and physical therapy. What benefits do low-impact fitness choices offer? 

What is low impact fitness? 

To understand low impact fitness, first, you need to dissect the word “impact.” In exercise terminology, impact means force put on bones and joints during physical activity. 

High-impact exercises like running or jumping create a force equal to about 2.5 times your bodyweight. A man who weighs 90kg brings down a force equal to 225kg on his knees, hips, and spine. 

Low impact fitness is exactly what it sounds like — an activity that applies less force to joints and is more gentle on the body. Low-impact exercise is something people at all levels of their fitness journey can benefit from, including beginners, those with injuries, and professional athletes. It enhances recovery efforts and reduces the risk of damage. 

When you imagine low-impact exercises, think fluid. They typically consist of fluid movements like cycling or elliptical training. Water exercise clearly fits into this category. 

Low-impact doesn’t mean you work less hard, though. A low-impact workout can be just as beneficial, more so in some cases, as high-impact exercise. Low-impact just means less stress on your joints. 

Why is water a great low impact workout?

Water exercise can improve strength, flexibility, and cardio health. At the same time, it decreases your risk of injury. What is it about water that enhances a workout? 

  • Buoyancy — Floating in water removes most of your body weight and decreases the force on the joints.
  • Temperature — The warmth of the water helps muscles relax and may reduce pain.
  • Viscosity — Water is thicker than air, which means it adds resistance as you move.
  • Turbulence — That ever-changing flow of water creates resistance on all sides.
  • Hydrostatic pressure —- This is the pressure on the body when submerged in water. That pressure helps moves blood to and from the heart. 

Your heart works harder when you are in the water, so it enhances cardio, as well. Water exercise provides a great core workout, strengthening one of the largest muscle groups to improve balance, posture, and flexibility. It also works the limbs to build muscle mass and tone. Water Cycling is a great low impact water workout.

The low impact benefits of water fitness

Water buoyancy reduces joint loading. That’s the force that comes down on the joints as you move. Water reduces the body weight by as much as 90 percent. That low-impact exercise helps to keep joints nimble and muscles tone. The buoyancy helps support the body, reducing the risk of joint, muscle, and bone injury during a workout. 

While buoyancy helps to lift the body up, the viscosity of the water increases the level of resistance. That resistance is dynamic, too. You can change it based on how fast you move, the level of the water, and even the position of your body. 

The reduced influence of gravity allows joints to move easily through a full range of motion with less stress. That means improved flexibility. 

How water fitness provides full body training

Water provides resistance in all directions as you move. For example, when you run in the water, your legs must move against the resistance in all directions. That multidirectional force also improves circulation to the joints and muscles and reduces pain if there is an injury. Moving through the water is effective for all-around strength building and improved endurance. 

Water is a cross-training tool that helps to flush out the muscles and improve aerobic endurance. At the same time, it gives your body a break from the pounding force that can come with high-intensity exercise — without the risk of losing fitness. 

Water exercise offers the unique benefit of removing gravity from the fitness equation. Because blood doesn’t have to move against the force of gravity, blood circulates better through the muscles. When you add intervals to your training, you boost your energy levels without putting stress on joints and muscles. 

Why water fitness is right for all fitness levels

It is easy to associate water fitness with rehab, but it is an effective option for people of all fitness levels, including athletes. The resistance of water allows athletes to charge up their routines but still benefit from a high-intensity workout — one that reduces the impact on joints. 

Water fitness can supplement circuit training for increased aerobic capacity and strength. Low-impact water workouts can also shorten recovery time between high-impact exercise routines. Because water workouts engage the core and stabiliser muscles, they add to a well-rounded cross-training fitness program. Swapping out one high-intensity workout a week can make a difference. Still the same intense workout, but one that is easier on the joints. 

Some athletes use water fitness during transitional periods such as after a marathon or trai9thlon. Since it is low-impact, it allows them to maintain their fitness level with less risk of injury or burnout. Swimming means less biomechanical stress on the body, so it is an effective option for sports recovery and rehab. 

Choosing water exercise at least once a week can reduce the risk of injury. Athletes still maintain their fitness level but less impact on the joints helps keep them healthy. For further info on Water Fitness check out our blog All About Water Fitness.

Overall benefits of water workouts

Some of the benefits you get with water fitness exercises include:

  • Reduced joint load and impact
  • Reduced joints stress from decreased body weight
  • Muscle toning 
  • Resistance from movement in all directions. This means there is resistance when the muscles elongate and when they contract. 
  • Improved flexibility
  • Improved balance and workout posture
  • Enhanced calorie burn

Water fitness is a fantastic low-impact way to exercise, whether you are a beginner or an athlete. It gets your heart pumping, helps you tone and strengthen your muscles — even the ones you don’t use a lot — and improves aerobic endurance.

Exercising in water helps those new to fitness work out safely and builds strength. It is a go-to exercise for people with limitations from disease or injury. It is also a cross-training tool for athletes who need to remove the impact on the body during high train periods. Water exercise can maintain fitness and endurance in transition periods or recovery from illness and injury. 

And, probably most importantly, it is a low-impact workout option because taking care of your body is essential. People are living longer, but aging well means keeping your body in its best shape. Water fitness routines can be a key part of staying healthy and injury prevention. 


Note: Please seek medical advice before exercising & always train under the advice your medical specialist.

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