It’s fair enough that you might not associate your local pool with jogging, but the benefits of running in water are amazing. This training method, known as aqua jogging or deep water running, is considered an effective form of cross training for anyone who wants to escape the stress of everyday life.
Traditionally used for injury rehabilitation, water running is also a great way to improve cardiovascular fitness, build strength and learn how to run properly (opens in new tab) – without unpleasant effects on the joints. You may be familiar with some of the best treadmills (opens in new tab) for a workout, but there’s a lot to be said for running in the water instead.
As we approach summer, many of us may be interested in swapping long workouts at the indoor gym for exercise in the great outdoors. We wanted to dive right in and hear from our experts firsthand why water running has become a popular training method for both casual runners and professional athletes – and how it could work for you.
What is running water?
Water walking can be done in deep or shallow water. The most accessible method is free running, which can be done anywhere, anytime, and doesn’t require fancy equipment: you can show up at any lake, pool, or lido to jog. Just jump in and run your laps instead of swimming them. Move your limbs as usual and expect a little more resistance.
The more technical method used by athletes and coaches uses a hydrotherapy treadmill and life jacket (or belt) to stabilize the body; This technique is often used to improve running form and to treat injuries or illnesses.
The benefits of running in water
According to a study published in the Journal of Sport and Health Science (opens in new tab), about half of all regular runners injure themselves every year – mainly from overuse and impact. If you swap out the asphalt for water from time to time, you’ll mimic the natural motion of running over land and allow you to recruit the same muscles but without making existing problems worse. You don’t have to compromise on intensity either, as you can get your blood pumping underwater, too. That’s why rehab specialists who work with top athletes have been hitting the water with their daily jog for years.
It’s amazing how running changes your body (opens in new tab). According to a 2017 Share America report (opens in new tab)more than 47 million runners choose to run on the sidewalk (or treadmill) regularly. The bad news is that the effects of regular running can lead to a variety of wear and tear injuries such as: B. plantar fasciitis, sprains, stress fractures, shin splints, Achilles tendinitis and runner’s knee – which affects the longevity of running for many runners.
If you’re prone to wobbly knees, rolling ankles, or tight hips, running in water could be your lifeline. Water acts to counterbalance gravity, which naturally creates resistance without the full impact of your foot strike; This provides much needed support for hips, knees and ankles. A study published in the Journal of Human Kinetics (opens in new tab) found in 2014 that immersion (up to shoulder height) in water relieved up to 85% of your body weight.
It builds strength, power and endurance
If you’ve ever tried walking through water, you know how easily you can get inflated. Because water is denser than air, you encounter increased resistance when you move, making the exercise feel harder. And the faster you move, the harder it will feel.
Christian Allen, product trainer at Runners Need (opens in new tab)He says: “Submerged in the water, you notice increased resistance from all sides. This works the muscles you use when running on land, but in a different way – great for building strength and maintaining cardiovascular fitness.”
Simon Maskell, biokineticist and founder of Simon Maskell Biokineticist & Associates (opens in new tab) agrees. “Water resistance (water’s natural resistance) puts pressure on your body and can contribute to stronger muscles and improved endurance,” he says. “It’s a great strength training option for anyone, but especially for those recovering from an injury.”
You can even see improvements in your muscle strength. A study published by Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise (opens in new tab) showed that plyometric training (explosive movements such as sprints and jumps) in water improved jump height in female volleyball players over a six-week training period.
It improves cardiovascular fitness
Running in water makes your heart and lungs stronger and more efficient, and this improves your maximum aerobic capacity (the maximum amount of oxygen your body can take in and use).
“The pressure that the water exerts on the body helps return peripheral blood flow to the heart,” says Maskell. “This increased blood flow puts less pressure on the heart to pump blood around the body. Exercising in the water lowers your blood pressure and heart rate, and improves circulation, which means your body can use oxygen more efficiently.” You’ll also find that your perceived exertion (how tired you feel during your workout) goes down when your heart and your lungs become more efficient.
Research shows that deep water running can positively impact your endurance. According to a study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise (opens in new tab)Deep water running was found to help trained endurance athletes maintain their aerobic performance for up to six weeks and improve aerobic capacity in untrained people.
It increases your neuromuscular fitness
Maskell says that water training can improve the efficiency of your neuromuscular system.
“Running in water can improve the function of your neural pathways and the neurological message to your working muscles, which can improve your running performance,” he says.
As you increase the speed and intensity of your water runs, your neuromuscular activity and metabolic costs (energy expenditure) also increase.
If you’re looking to boost your metabolism and increase calorie burn, Aqua Active could help. The added water pressure increases muscle recruitment and muscle strength, perceived exertion levels and intensity, and energy needs, all of which can help melt those calories.
It can be used for rehabilitation
“Water provides a unique training and exercise rehabilitation environment,” says Maskell.
We can all reap the rewards of water walking, but anyone suffering from chronic pain, osteoporosis, arthritis, obesity, diabetes, injury, or high blood pressure could dramatically improve their health.
The buoyancy of water may initially relieve pain due to less stress on your joints, but the reduced pressure on the spine (especially) opens up the world of exercise for those with spinal injuries, back pain, or postural disorders.
“Water allows athletes and runners to resume training programs earlier when recovering from injury or surgery, and at a higher intensity,” says Maskell.
Water reduces swelling and in turn improves range of motion around your joints, reducing muscle soreness and improving mobility. It does this in part by reducing what is known as “blood pooling” in the muscles – when blood is unable to return to the heart and instead pools in the lower limbs.
It forms a strong core
If you’re looking to sculpt a stronger core, this style of training can improve your overall balance and core strength.
“Because of the turbulence caused by the currents in the water, your body needs more balance, coordination, and awareness to perform movements effectively,” says Maskell. “More is required of your core to keep you stable and upright, which improves overall core strength. A strong core can also protect you from the likelihood of future injuries,” he adds.
It can improve your running technique on land
If you are new to running or just want to improve, Gait Analysis Done by a professional can help you nail your form. But starting your journey in the water could also be an engaging and effective way to learn proper technique.
“Running in water can be used to introduce non-runners to the proper gait and movement requirements of running before they hit the ground,” says Maskell. “Aqua running can also help established runners with gait training and improve overall athletic performance and reduce the risk of injury.”
How to walk in the water
Learning the right technique takes time and patience, but it will also save you the hassle of injury and medical care in the long run.
“Form and technique are just as important underwater as they are on land, and you want to replicate the same biomechanics that you would use on a regular run,” says Allen. “Some runners find it helpful to visualize themselves running outside to ensure they stay as upright as possible, pull your shoulders back and down, and pull your stomach towards your spine. This means you can work on good posture and form without the physical stress that the extra road or trail miles would put on your body.”
“It’s important to stay well hydrated during exercise or rehabilitation in the water,” says Maskell. “You’ll lose fluids without always realizing it.”
The properties of water and their applications for training (opens in new tab)
In-water plyometric training increases vertical jump in female volleyball players (opens in new tab)
Influence of water walking training on maintenance of aerobic capacity (opens in new tab)
https://www.livescience.com/the-benefits-of-running-in-water The benefits of running in water