What could be better than jumping into a pool on a warm day? Working out in water is not only a great way to get fit and stay cool, it also helps to speed your metabolism and burn off kilojoules. And the benefits don’t stop there. In addition, a recent study published in Current Diabetes Reviews suggests that getting regular aerobic exercise through exercises like swimming can improve artery health in people with type 2 diabetes. Win-win-win-win! Give these two water workouts from exercise physiologist Christine Armarego a try:
BETTER SWIMMING WORKOUT
● Duration: 30 minutes.
● Equipment required: Goggles; kickboard; pool buoy (a flotation device held between your legs to help you float as you use your arms to swim).
● Why it works: ‘Swimming works every muscle in your body, not to mention your heart and lungs’, says Armarego. ‘It’s great for people with injuries as it can be broken up into parts, such as workouts for legs or arms only. Studies have also shown that swimming can reduce your stress levels.’
1. Slow swimming: Freestyle is the fastest, most efficient type of swimming stroke, which means that it is perfect for both fat-burning and fitness. If you are new to swimming and can’t complete a full lap of freestyle, just swim as far as you can, then roll over into backstroke to get to the end of the pool. Over time, you’ll be able to build up your strength
to complete a full lap of freestyle.
2. Lap swimming: Do a 25-50m kicking lap using a kickboard (this focuses on your legs). Now do a 25-50m swimming lap using a pool buoy between your legs (this focuses on your arms). Then do two 25-50m laps of freestyle (without any aids). This series of exercises allows you to focus on one part of your stroke at a time as well as work different sets of muscles. If you don’t want to swim freestyle, try another stroke that suits you.
3. Interval swimming: Complete three 25-50m laps at a moderate pace, then do a 25-50m lap at your fastest pace. Rest for 30 seconds. Repeat this set 2-8 times, depending on your fitness level. This exercise can also be performed with any stroke.
WALKING IN WATER WORKOUT
● Duration: 30 minutes.
● Equipment required: None.
● Why it works: ‘Walking workouts can improve your core strength as well as strengthen and tone your leg muscles,’ says Armarego.
● Keep in mind: ‘When you’re more comfortable with these exercises, increase the difficulty by walking in deeper water or by taking larger steps. Start at waist height and increase the depth to shoulder height over time.’
1. Walking forwards, backwards and sideways: Keeping your body upright and your core strong, walk along the length of the pool, either swinging your arms, or holding onto the side. Walk for 10-12 metres and repeat for 2-4 laps.
2. Walking with knee raises: Walking forward with your body upright, raise your knee to hip height and lower to the ground for each step. Your arms can swing or move as they normally would when you walk. For an extra challenge, walk backwards or sideways. Walk for 10-12 metres and repeat for 2-4 laps.
3. Walking with arms raised: Walk forwards with your arms out to the front for a lap, then down for a lap, out to the side (elbows bent) for one lap, then rest for the next lap. You can also do this exercise by walking backwards or sideways. Walk for 10-12 metres and repeat for 2-4 laps.
Before you begin your water workout, remember to:
- Get the all-clear from your doctor or diabetes educator.
- Check your blood glucose levels. ‘If you’re taking insulin or medication that can cause a hypo, ensure your levels are above 5mmol/L to reduce the risk of having a hypo in the pool,’ says diabetes educator Dr Kate Marsh.
- Take a snack or reduce your insulin to prevent you going low. Christine Armarego also advises wearing an alert bracelet and having jellybeans on hand.
- Read the instructions to see if your insulin pump is waterproof.
- Even though you’re exercising in water, you’ll still work up a sweat, so keep a water bottle handy.
- Be careful when getting in and out of the pool, or wear water socks, to help prevent cuts and foot infections, says Armarego.
- If you’re outdoors, use a water-resistant, high-SPF sunscreen.
- Walk forwards, backwards and sideways in the water for a few minutes to warm up, advises Armarego.
- Shower as soon as possible after swimming as chlorine may dry out your skin and cause it to crack, which can lead to infections.