Lee-Anne Wann is one of New Zealand’s most trusted health and fitness experts.

Lee-Anne Wann: Is exercising in water better for you?

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Working out in water is a very safe and very effective way to tone muscles. Photo / Getty
Working out in water is a very safe and very effective way to tone muscles. Photo / Getty

I am often asked if exercising in water is as effective as other methods for losing weight and boosting energy. I think this is a great question.

Many of us still believe water exercises or "aqua aerobics" are for older women who don't want much of a workout. The fact is water provides resistance to body movement, support of body weight and a wonderful freshness that combines to make workouts as hard or as easy as anyone desires.

Water exercise can include cardio and fitness, muscle toning, strength, endurance and even flexibility. Exercising in water is great for people who are overweight, have injuries or are just starting out on an exercise routine.

This is because the environment created in water is less stressful on both body and mind: The moves are practically non-impact and the pace is slower, which produces a more playful atmosphere that encourages people to have a good time while training their bodies.

Try these water fitness classes

There are many forms of water fitness classes: Water walking, water jogging, choreographed aerobics, toning, or deep water conditioning.

Injury rehabilitation in the water is common for both the general population and athletes. Many of the latter believe they recover and train better in the water. Even mind and body workouts are being conducted in water, including some massage techniques.

Water vs. land

One important point about water fitness to note is that it's a totally different discipline to exercising on solid ground.

Land exercise is based on gravity while water fitness is based on buoyancy. Water provides 12 times more resistance than air.

When doing land exercise, monitoring the heart rate with the pulse is important. In the water, oxygen consumption - the process that burns fat and calories - is the important factor.

In the water, heart rates are 13-15 per cent lower than on land. This is due to heat, gravity, compression, water pressure and what is called the dive reflex. Studies have shown that despite lower heart rates, water fitness provides fine improvements in cardiovascular fitness and fat loss.

Muscle toning

Working out in water is a very safe and very effective way to tone muscles.

Muscles work in synchronized pairs: one primary mover and one opposing muscle, such as the bicep and tricep, or the front of your arm and the back of your arm. Water allows efficient training of both muscles in pairs.

In water, abdominal and back muscles are contracting continuously for much of the workout to maintain proper body position and alignment, so the whole body tones with ease.

Pool toys

Another element that helps makes water fitness so much fun and particularly effective is the equipment that can be used for flotation and resistance.

Consider these items if you're interested in water workouts:

• Buoyancy belts and kickboards keep exercisers afloat in deeper water.
• Styrofoam dumbbells, hand paddles, beach balls and the Water Woggle (a long thin styrofoam tube) are some great resistance "toys".
*bull; Aerobic steps for water workouts.

Water exercise is a great way to tone, lose weight and also add some fun into your exercise regime so give it a go this summer.

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Lee-Anne Wann is one of New Zealand’s most trusted health and fitness experts.

Lee-Anne Wann is one of New Zealand’s most trusted health and fitness experts. She is the Vodafone Warrior’s team nutritionist, ambassador for Men's Health Trust NZ and runs a health and consultancy business.

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