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Natural Awakenings Atlanta

Summer Splash: Keeping Cool With Water Fitness

Jun 28, 2024 09:25AM ● By Megy Karydes
aqua aerobics


Whenever we’re swimming or participating in other water-based activities, all of our senses are engaged and exhilarated. Aquatic sports can help us stay fit, strong and cool during the hot summer months. Here are a few recommendations to remain safe and reap all of the splashy benefits.


Learn to Swim Early

Cullen Jones, a four-time Olympic medalist and the first African American swimmer to hold a world record, credits his parents for encouraging him to learn to swim even after he nearly drowned at a water park when he was 5 years old. “I recommend getting infants into the water as early as 6 months old. This helps the child get acclimated to the water and pool environment, easing things when it’s time for professional swimming lessons by a trained instructor,” says Jones, the water-safety expert for Leslie’s Inc., a pool- and spa-care retailer.

Jane Brenner, a water aerobics instructor and lifeguard at YMCA of Metro Chicago, similarly believes that it is never too early to expose young children to water and never too late to learn how to swim. “I see people starting their relationship and journey with water in their 50s, 60s and 70s,” she says. “And I think that’s just as beautiful.”


Water-Based Exercises

Jones notes that any exercise can be done in the water for the added benefit of staying cool. Activities such as running, aerobics, Zumba, cycling and resistance training become a bit harder in the pool, upping the workout benefits.

Hydrostatic pressure is another advantage. “When you get into a pool, even if you’re just holding on to the wall, even if you’re not doing anything, you are wearing a gentle compression sleeve around your whole body,” Brenner explains. “The water is pushing down on you in a way that you barely even notice. You can’t register that slight increase in pressure, but it’s more than the air, and that’s going to increase blood flow. It’s going to decrease pain and swelling. It’s going to do all that while decreasing impact on joints.”

“While other activities may target only one region of the body, water sports—and in particular, swimming—offer a full-body workout,” Jones asserts. “When it comes to swimming, you are using your legs to kick, your arms to paddle and your core to hold it all together. Swimming delivers a whole-body workout and mind-enhancing experience.”

While people can and do enjoy being in the water without knowing how to swim, Brenner notes that anyone that feels they can’t learn is selling themselves short. “I really believe that there is space for a relationship with swimming and water in every person’s life,” she says.

Jones admits it took working with five swim coaches before it clicked for him. Had it not been for his parents’ persistence, he never would have become an Olympic swimmer and gone on to win medals.


Water Safety Is Paramount

According to a 2023 Leslie’s-commissioned survey conducted by The Harris Poll, only 63 percent of U.S. adults say they are very comfortable being around water, and as much as 36 percent of those surveyed say they do not know how to swim. Nearly half the parents of children under 18 say their child does not know how to swim, and 61 percent say their child has not taken swimming lessons. At the same time, almost 30 percent of parents say they are concerned about their child drowning.

“Swimming lessons save lives,” Jones says. “It’s also an important life skill that can open up a whole new world of recreational and athletic possibilities, such as boating, fishing and competitive swimming, among others.” Still, Brenner and Jones say non-swimmers may enjoy the benefits of being in the water, whether to stay cool in the summer or to stay healthy and fit, both in mind and body.

Brenner teaches water aerobics to people from all walks of life and all ages. She notes that there is a real sense of community that happens in those 50-minute classes. “People are bringing cookies, and others are telling us about the garage sale that’s happening down the street,” she quips. In addition to the physical benefits of water fitness, coming together at the community pool or in a natural body of water offers mental-health rewards and fellowship.


Megy Karydes is a Chicago-based writer and author of 50 Ways to More Calm, Less Stress: Scientifically Proven Ways to Relieve Anxiety and Boost Your Mental Health Using Your Five Senses.

This article appears in the July 2024 issue of Natural Awakenings.

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