Traversing the twists and turns of the waterslide, perfecting your form on the diving board, and testing your cunning at a game of Marco Polo. These are just a few of the ways to steer clear of boredom and ensure a fun day at the pool.
But for those looking to beat the heat and also get in a workout while in the water, a type of resistance training called immersive fitness may be the perfect fit.
“In immersive fitness, the emphasis is on increasing the entertainment of exercise,” says Erin Mahoney, vice president of education at the Phoenix-based International Sports Sciences Association. “The good news is this will increase the likelihood for people to exercise and maybe even for longer periods of time.”
Resistance training in the pool is great for men with bone or joint conditions, because it removes impact to the body, according to John-Paul Rue, a sports medicine surgeon at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore.
“Resistance training in a pool offers the ability to unload your joints [and] to experience near weightlessness — but at the same time work the muscles around that joint for resistance training,” Rue says. “It allows you to work a constant resistance without pulleys, gears or other mechanical friction. Anyone can benefit from immersive fitness, provided they are comfortable in the water and able to support themselves.”
It is also beneficial because the water serves as a constant resistance to all areas of the body, making it possible to train every muscle group and more likely to have total body exercise, according to Mahoney.
“Immersive fitness is ‘gamified,’ or experiential-oriented, fitness aimed to increase motivation levels for people to exercise for reasons of enjoyment,” she says. “The concept is if someone enjoys an experience or finds it pleasurable, they will continue to do it. Deep-water resistance exercise and swimming are great for cardio and heart health because the experience is total body, thereby taxing the cardiovascular and respiratory systems of the body more aggressively.”
She adds that swimming also requires breath control, further improving lung capacity.
Don’t dive, wade in
Not everyone has access to a pool — and even those who do might find it inconvenient, Mahoney says.
Weather conditions, lugging around the equipment and the weights, and sharing a pool with others can all add to the inconvenience. Another con is that it is a non-weight-bearing activity; therefore, the impact to muscles might not be as great as it would be out of water.
“Research has shown people who participate in water-based resistance exercise as the primary form of exercise are more likely to experience bone density loss than those who participate in other forms of exercise,” Mahoney says.
For men who want to give it a try and are looking to ease into swimming pool-based resistance training, the key is to stay hydrated and know one’s limits, Rue says.
“If you overdo it at the start, this can lead to muscle strains or other injuries,” he says. “Because immersive training requires a certain amount of balance, your core muscles will get a great workout with all of the exercises.”
Rue adds that men also can add fins or flippers to their underwater workout for even more added resistance. They can also add water dumbbells for additional weight, as well as floatation belts to keep afloat.
Mahoney says immersive fitness is “easy, regardless of skill level.”
“There’s little to no coordination required, and the movements often simulate regular activities, such as running or cross-country skiing,” she says.