Water Exercise: It’s Good for the Heart!

Mary LeSourd  |  Posted: Monday, February 4th, 2019
Your heart is a muscle, the most important muscle in your body!  It beats 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Inactivity will literally cripple your heart!
A normal resting heart rate ranges from 60-80 beats per minute.  If you want to make your heart stronger, then it’s important to challenge it to beat faster, which means you need to do aerobic exercise.  Aerobic exercise brings the resting heart rate down.
If you can lower your resting heart rate by as little as 10 beats per minute, you will be saving your heart approximately 14,400 beats in a 24-hour period.
Exercising in the water has additional benefits for the heart than merely exercising on land.  Just stepping into the pool automatically lowers blood pressure for most people.  Your blood pressure decreases because when you immerse, it relaxes the blood vessels so that they can carry more blood out to the body, resulting in less resistance to the heart as it pumps that blood out to the more distal extremities.
Another plus is that the decreased blood pressure lingers for a while after you get out of the pool.  With regular aquatic exercise, the vessels themselves actually become much more supple.
People with metabolic syndrome, who have a combination of risk factors, such as obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol or triglycerides, also tend to have stiffer blood vessels, resulting in the heart functioning less efficiently.
In a study of 12 individuals with metabolic syndrome, (Chris Alexander, May 2017), who participated in a deep-water exercise training program one hour a day, 3 days a week, blood vessel health improved in just 8 weeks.
Individuals who are overweight will often be more comfortable exercising in water because the buoyancy of the water supports their weight, and therefore they are more likely to continue with the program.
In general, blood pressure increases gradually and progressively with increasing age.  This results in a high prevalence of hypertension among older adults.  In fact, hypertension affects 3 out of 4 Americans over the age of 65.
Extreme or chronic hypertension can lead to heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases.  Another recent study confirmed that exercising in water at a mild to moderate intensity 3 times a week produced a measurable reduction in blood pressure in 2-3 months. Repeated workouts in the pool reduces the stiffening of blood vessels, a primary factor for increased blood pressure as we age.
Another benefit — hydrostatic (water) pressure pushes blood out to the extremities, and in combination with more supple blood vessels, stroke volume and cardiac output increases.  This means that the heart becomes more efficient, pumping more blood.  With this kind of blood flow, heart rate can be lowered.  Blood flow during water exercises also increases to the muscles and to the brain, delivering more oxygen and nutrients to the brain cells.
Target heart rates while exercising in shallow water average about 7 beats per minute lower than the same intensity exercise on land.  Target heart rates in deep water, where more of the body experiences the hydrostatic pressure of the water, average about 17 beats per minute lower than the same intensity exercise on land. The exact number of beats per minute depends on many factors, including the fitness level of the individual.
In sum, working out in the water has so many benefits!  Benefits for the heart include making the heart stronger, decreasing the resting heart rate, making blood vessels more supple, reducing blood pressure, and increasing stroke volume.
Check out our aquatic group fitness classes here: https://www.themarsh.com/classes-programs/