Low Impact Aquafit Challenge

Thursday, May 28 2020

Boundless Opportunities features an entire workout taught with non-impact movement, which is ideal for those who need to restrict all impact and for those exercising in shallower depths (waist depth).  Miff Hendriksen demonstrates how to maintain a fitness challenge in the pool without equipment and without joint impact. 

Whether you are nursing an injury or protecting aging joints, the water is a much kinder environment to exercise in because of the upwards forces of buoyancy.  However, there is still gravity present in water exercise.  When standing in water at chest level, your shoulders and head are still influenced by the forces of gravity, meaning that you are still bearing about 25-35% of your body weight when impacting moves such as jogs, skis and jacks.  If you are standing in water at waist depth, that equation increases to 50%.  Why would someone exercise in water at waist depth?

Shallower Depths
Many backyard pools, particularly older built-in pools have a small shallow area that is may only be 3.5’ deep, before quickly sloping off to deep water.  For average or taller people, that translates to waist depth.  If you have ever exercised on your own or participated in a water exercise class in shallow water at waist depth, you know how uncomfortable and painful the impact can be.  Exercises performed in shallow depths should be taught with low or non-impact exercise.  In shallow water at waist depth, the only option for removing impact is by performing grounded or anchored movements. When exercising in a recommended depth at chest level, there are other options for removing impact, including lowering in the water into neutral position at shoulder level.  Many of the PoolFit videos show exercises performed grounded or at neutral (Level II) position in the water.  Level III impact option would be completely suspended with feet off the pool floor, which is NOT an option for non-swimmers.  WATCH a short tutorial on water depth to better understand impact implications.

Reducing Impact
Grounded movements are performed by anchoring one foot on the pool floor at all times.  Most aquatic fitness exercises are bounded, by either transferring weight from one foot to the other as in one-footed moves, including jogs, kicks and leg curls, or by jumping on both feet as in two-footed moves, such as skis, jacks and moguls.  Transferring weight from foot to foot or jumping both feet causes impact on joints.  Skis, jacks and jumping moves are actually high impact exercises and impact options should be considered if you have joint impact issues.  PoolFit subscribers should get used to implementing impact options even if they are not offered in the video.  Once again, reducing impact in a movement involves either grounding it by anchoring one foot on the pool floor, or lowering shoulders to the water’s level by squatting through the hips and knees. 

Grounded Challenge
As an aquatic fitness instructor training specialist and educator since 2002, I noticed over the years that instructors often avoided grounded options because they perceived them as less challenging.  As demonstrated aptly by Miff, the reality is that you can make anchored exercises very challenging by incorporating aggressive arm patterning. Additionally, grounded moves are often performed on the half tempo and the slower movement of the working leg has to work harder against the water’s resistance.  And if you are looking for a core challenge, Miff demonstrates removing the arms so that the core is forced to stabilize while performing exercises balanced on one-foot. 

Owning the Workout
Once again, PoolFit subscribers should own their workouts and incorporate impact options as needed in any of the workouts.  Obviously, that is not needed in deep water because ALL moves are zero gravity and zero impact in the deep end.  In shallow water exercise, all movements can be grounded and thus non-impact.  See examples below.
Jumping Jacks – one leg steps to the side
Cross Country Skis – reverse lunges
Jogs – march
Front kicks – kick one leg forward at a time - other foot stays down
Pendulums - kicks one leg to the side at a time - other foot stays down

Boundless Opportunities
Developed while she was recovering from a broken foot, Boundless Opportunities was created by Miff as a routine for herself to keep fit with a non-impact water exercise routine.  PoolFit extends a big THANK-YOU to Miff for once again sharing her water exercise passion with subscribers.  We hope you enjoy this workout and take away a better understanding of grounding movements as a method for removing impact.    

Author: Mark Grevelding is the founder of Fitmotivation. He is also a training specialist and consultant with the Aquatic Exercise Association’s (AEA). Mark has been active in the fitness industry for 22 years as a group fitness instructor, personal trainer, international presenter and a continuing education provider for AEA, AFAA & ACE.