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Getting Fit by Water Walking

Water walking is an excellent aerobic and calorie burning workout; you can burn up to 550 calories an hour walking in the water. Water walking is the perfect break from the pounding of everyday training on terra firma. It’s a wonderful way to keep active if you’re nursing an injury. And when the outdoor temperature climbs into the 90s, it’s a refreshing version of earthbound walking.

Water walking can also help correct muscle imbalances. Walking on land emphasizes the muscles in the front and back of your thighs. Walking in water works your upper body equally as hard as your lower body because water gives all your submerged muscles 12 to 14 times the resistance of air.

Taking a water walking or running class is a good way to get a handle on form and technique. Many colleges, universities, and high schools offer relatively inexpensive classes to the public. YMCAs, Jewish Community Centers, and public pools may also offer these types of classes.

There are two types of water walking: deep water and shallow water. Here’s a description of each type:

  • Deep water walking is done in a pool or any other calm body of water where your feet don’t touch the bottom. During deep water walking, you mimic land-based walking movements such as walking up hills, walking sprints, and backwards walking.

    Although it is not absolutely necessary, you should consider wearing a flotation vest or belt. This device keeps you afloat and holds you in a relatively stable condition in the water so that you can concentrate on your form instead of on keeping yourself afloat. If your pool doesn’t have a buoy vest and you want to give water walking a try before you invest the $50 or so on a flotation device of your own, you can try propping a Styrofoam weight under each arm to keep yourself afloat. Most pools have them. Stick them firmly under your arms so that they don’t interfere with your arm swing and so they keep you relatively stationary in the water.

  • Shallow water walking is done in thigh- to chest-high water where your feet still can touch the bottom. If your space is limited, you can tether yourself to the side of the pool with a stretchy band or a bungee cord so that you can keep moving your body without actually having to move through the pool. Otherwise, walk the pool back and forth widthwise, driving your arms and legs as hard as you can. Don’t worry about speed. You won’t move very fast. But you will work up a sweat and tire out quickly. You might want to start with a few short intervals with a minute or two of rest in between and gradually increase from there.

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