Water Aerobics For Those With Diabetes: Benefits and Tips

Water buoys us up, helps us move, and simultaneously provides the resistance necessary to tone muscle and get our heart pumping.

This is why participating in water aerobics is beneficial for almost everyone, including people with type 1 or 2 diabetes.

Water aerobics are the performance of cardio-boosting exercises in water, typically a swimming pool. The workout is usually done while standing in waist or chest deep water, and may involve the use of aquatic equipment such as kickboards, and water woggles (foam cylinders).

Aerobic water workouts can be adjusted to suit people’s fitness status, and any physical limitations. Participants can control their level of exertion by altering the speed and size of their movements. It’s a great way for those who are out of shape, overweight, or have mobility issues to start, or maintain an exercise program.

Water Aerobics and Diabetes

Water aerobics are particularly helpful for many people with diabetes because:

  • Water aerobics is a non-weight bearing activity. Most exercises are done in chest deep water where the body is about 80 percent buoyant, so people are supported by water, not their extremities. This makes working out more comfortable for those with neuropathy or other physical pain; plus, buoyancy can aid with balance.
  • When we are surrounded by water every movement in every direction is met with resistance that increases calories burned, facilitating weight loss.
  • The massage-like pressure that water exerts against the body, called hydrostatic pressure, helps the heart pump more efficiently, and is beneficial for those with poor circulation in their extremities.
  • People typically have better range of motion in the water so joints get the benefit of wider movement and better blood flow. “The water is your friend. You don’t have to fight with water, just share the same spirit as the water, and it will help you move,” said Olympic swimmer, Aleksandr Popov.
  • Exercising in water does away with the fear of falling, twisting ankles, or injuring knees. Those who wish to be extra light on their feet while in the pool, or those with balance concerns, can wear a floatation belt for extra lift and security.

It’s easy to see why water aerobics is great exercise for both in-shape and out-of-shape individuals, and why it’s the only exercise option for people with certain medical concerns.

Once we have a doctor’s okay to participate and locate our swimsuit, we are almost ready to head for the pool—but should consider a few safety precautions first.

Safety Tips

People with diabetes should consider wearing some type of aquatic shoe during water workouts, particularly if they have neuropathy, to protect their feet from rough pool bottoms, or decks.

It is also wise to wear a medical ID bracelet in the pool, and exercise with a friend who understands the symptoms of hypoglycemia and how to treat it. Otherwise, we must make sure the instructor understands our needs and will look out for our well being. Remember to keep a water-proofed carb source at poolside.

If you’re not sure how to adjust diet or medications to accommodate the effects of exercise on blood glucose, consult with your doctor, or diabetes educator.

Source: ATRI; Hydroco
Photo credit: Kenny Holston

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