Because water displaces body weight, exercising in swimming pools may not seem as worthwhile as putting in the same effort on land, where gravity can exert its full force. However, a new study from Canada disputes that reasoning, and found that water workouts can be as good, if not better than land-based exercise.
The study, presented at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress in October 2012, showed that riding a submerged exercise bike (called an immersible ergocycle) was just as good aerobically speaking as riding a stationary bike in the gym or at home. The study’s 22 participants, all healthy, cycled on land and in water that came up to chest level, and increased the intensity of both workouts until exhaustion. The study leaders found that maximal oxygen consumption, a measure of an effective workout, was the same whether the cycling took place on land or in water.
Exercise in water has long been considered a good alternative to land-based workouts for the overweight or people with joint problems or injuries. What’s new here are the findings that exercise in water can be equivalent to training on land and may be more efficient than a land-based workout because the pressure of the water on the legs and lower body makes the blood return more effectively to the heart, the researchers said.