Groundbreaking study explores the benefits of water-based exercise

Man swimming

Researchers at Hallam have undertaken a groundbreaking study to explore the cardio-protective benefits of water-based exercise. With the results of the study now published in Frontiers of Physiology, we caught up with Dr Markos Klonizakis (reader – clinical physiology) to learn a little bit more about the innovative research project . . .

What motivated you to undertake the research project?

I am privileged to lead the LENI Research group – LENI stands for “Lifestyle, Exercise and Nutrition Improvement”.  Our work focuses on the development and application of interventions that aim to support treatment for clinical populations as well as supporting high-risk groups in their attempt to avoid non-communicable diseases.

While we work on the development of novel lifestyle interventions, we also try to find new applications for existing ones.

Water-based exercise is increasingly popular, particularly among the elderly, but surprisingly the evidence for any potential cardio-protective benefits for the general, older population are limited. This study was the first step in a research programme that will explore the role of water-based exercise in the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease.

Can you provide a summary of your findings?

The study is the first to undertake a direct comparison and show that regular water-based exercise offers equal cardio-protective benefits to that offered by other modes of exercise, in healthy older people. This is extremely important considering that until recently it was thought that water-based exercise can only offer muscle strengthening and balance benefits to older people, and only be beneficial to clinical groups.

Did you face any challenges during the project?

This was a quite challenging project, as it was undertaken with limited funds, and during a very busy time for everyone involved. These challenges made it more enjoyable, while our findings suggest it was worth the effort.

How will the results of your study be applied in order to improve the day-to-day lives of older adults?

This was a first step in a long-term research programme that will look at how water-based exercise can be part of a treatment or preventative regime, so it was not designed to improve the day-to-day lives of older adults. Nevertheless, it can certainly be beneficial, as our findings provide assurance to those older adults looking for alternatives to land-based exercise regimes (for example due to frailty or fear of using exercise equipment) that exercising in the water is just as beneficial when it comes to achieving the multiple health benefits that regular exercise offers.

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