what are water sports? how can they help me with my fitness goals?


As a former swimmer and water polo player myself, I know the benefits of water sports in fat loss, endurance, muscle building and all the other health benefits involved. Like every type of sport and exercise, water sports have its upsides and downsides.

In this article, we are going to go through a detailed examination of what water sports are, what are the pros and cons of water sports and whether water sports can help you reach your fitness goals or not.

What are water sports or aqua sports?

Any sport that is carried out with the help of water is included as a water sport(sometimes called aquafit), whether your body is completely in the water like swimming or you are only using water as a resistance or force like flyboard flying.

Some people even include fishing as a water sport but in this article we are going to talk about water sports which are unique to water itself from physical point of view rather than just solely sports category, there is no different physically between throwing a fishing rod inside the water and on the grass!

So Although sports like rafting or cable skiing are also included as water sports, in this article by Water sports we mean sports in which you literally are chest to neck deep in water majority of the time. The purpose of water exercise is to put the body through activity without adding extra stress and strain on the joints.

what are the Water sports types and what energy system to they use?

Like sports performed outside of water, water sports have 2 main types: aerobic water sports and anaerobic water sports.

What are aerobic training and anaerobic training?

Aerobic training is simply endurance training. The word aerobic means ‘with the need of oxygen. 1Km backstroke or long walk inside low depth water or any other type of workout which you can perform with minimum amount of energy output for long period without resting is considered Aerobic. If your muscles get tired in an exercise in less than two minutes, it is not aerobic for you and is anaerobic for you.

Anaerobic training is simply power and speed training. the word anaerobic means ‘without the need of oxygen’. A fast 25 meters butterfly or a catch-and-shoot in water polo or any other type of workout which you can perform with maximum amount of energy output as long as possible without resting is considered Anaerobic. If your muscles do not get tired in an exercise in more than two minutes, it is not anaerobic for you and is aerobic for you.

The main component that makes the difference in this two types is energy systems. We have 3 main energy systems: ATP-PC(anaerobic), Lactic acid(anaerobic), and aerobic energy system.

what is Atp-pc energy system and how it works in water sports?

For this sort of exercise, we don’t use oxygen and instead rely on the ATP-PC or creatine phosphate system for quick-serve bursts of energy. This ATP-PC is stored in the muscles and replenished via phosphocreatine breakdown. This energy system provides immediate energy for up to 10 seconds for instantaneous burst of exercise(like a catch-and-shoot).

what is Lactic acid energy system and how it works in water sports?

Also called the anaerobic glycolysis system, the lactic acid system uses stored glucose (muscle glycogen) to create energy. And if there’s not enough oxygen to go around, lactic acid is produced to help push things along. It provides energy for very hard efforts lasting roughly 10 – 120 seconds and is associated with the feeling of burning in your muscles due to the build-up of lactate and other metabolites within your muscles(like a fast 25 meters butterfly).

what is Aerobic energy system and how it works in water sports?

also known as the oxygen energy system and it uses both carbohydrates and fat in a slow energy burn. The aerobic energy system is the most complex of the three using oxygen to create something called glycolysis and, ultimately, produce that all-important ATP. As a result, aerobic energy system is the slowest to act of the three. That said, it’s essential for providing basic energy needs for general prolonged movement and endurance activities(like a 1Km backstroke).

Now before we get to water aerobic and water anaerobic, know that no sport is fully aerobic or anaerobic. These two types are the phases of exercise and considering what phase an exercise uses more, that phase name is given to that exercise so people understand the main type of exercise.

What are the Benefits of water sports?

Your weight is lifted on the water and you are weightless which takes the pressure away from your spine and back, meanwhile since you have to balance yourself on the water(The resistance exerted by water applies in both directions, as you push and pull against it. This means that each movement you make works two opposing muscle groups), you have to use every muscle which helps you find out if you have any lagging body part that needs work.

Though people have been swimming and playing water polo for a long time, water exercise grew out of therapeutic exercise for people recovering from injury or conditions such as bursitis and sciatica.

Since the water neutralizes your power a lot more than air, You cannot produce too much power and speed and that can help you save your joints and connective tissues like tendons, meanwhile, Aqua sports help strengthen the body because the water offers resistance(Water has much more resistance than air). The buoyancy of the water results in much less strain on your muscles and joints. That makes water sports a good choice if you have joint problems, chronic pain, or are recovering from injury. It’s also popular among seniors, pregnant women and people suffering from arthritis and diabetes.

diabetes can cause problems with the nerves and blood flow to your feet, making you more likely to get injured. Water aerobic sports like any other aerobic exercise will help keep your blood sugars under control while helping with the nerves system and blood flow with water pressure.

Exercising in water is great if you have arthritis or problems with your knees or back. You will put less pressure on those aching joints, and be able to spend more time working out. It can help your joints move better and hurt less.

Also the hydrostatic pressure of the water helps increase heart and lung function. since we cannot breathe inside water, we have to learn to control the tempo and volume of our breathing which in long term results in a increasing lung capacity and adaptation of breathing rhythm to type of exercise faster.

In a good swimming pool temperature(around 26°C or 79°F), your body is able to radiate heat from muscle easier to water than air, hence you will not sweat too much and your body is safer against dehydration and overheating(but still you need to drink enough water). Also the water has a special quality which relaxes the body and takes the stress levels down.

Water aerobics is a great way to improve your heart health. It can lower your blood pressure and your “bad” LDL cholesterol while raising your “good” HDL cholesterol.

Water sports are great for fat loss and losing weight. As mentioned, water temperature is normally around 26°C or 79°F and body temperature is 37°C. so your body needs to use the brown fatty tissues to help you stay warm. Also when the depth of water becomes more than your height, hence your feet is not touching the ground, you have to work a lot of muscles to balance yourself on water and that takes a lot of energy, meanwhile, as mentioned, water takes pressure away from muscles and joints so you do not feel tired soon and can be able to exercise more without noticing.

Since water resistance is high and your body moves slower inside it, you can increase mind-muscle connection. You can feel muscles for longer periods and also can be able to focus on your coordination without the fear of falling down.

It is also great if you have a disability, it really is easy to flow in water once you have learned the dynamics and as you progress, you get to a day where you are can float and move your body with just one limb at a time.

People with osteoarthritis often can exercise at much higher intensities than they could on a mat in a gym on land. A study in 2003 found that not only were osteoarthritis patients who exercised in water able to improve their walking ability on land, but they also increased their independence.

What are the disadvantages of water sports?

A disadvantage of exercising in the pool is that some people who do water aerobics frequently exhibit side effects from pool water disinfection process. People who are often in the pool might have allergies to either chlorine or bromine, which are the two generally used chemical disinfectants in pools. Typical allergic complaints are red, irritated eyes; dry, itchy skin; and, sometimes, lung irritation.

Also the chemicals can be consumed during training either by mouth, ears, eyes and nose which can be bad for health, especially in over-crowded pools or free waters.

These chemicals can become dangerous if pool water temperature raises too much and evaporates them and you are inhaling from less than a few inches of its surface.

cold water temperature also can weaken immune system and cause a range of problems.

Constant contact of even pure water with eyes, ears and even skin can cause some side effects like dry skin and hair. Also a lot of swimming goggles are not standard and put lots of pressure on eyes.

Because exercising in water is easier to do, sometimes beginners can do too much. Also they can become stressed by water and move their body quickly and cause muscle cramps.

Tips for athletes in water sports

always be sure you are training in a swimming pool which both the water chemicals and cleanness, and temperature are checked constantly.

Make sure the swimming goggles are working correctly and are not pushing too much pressure on your eyes.

Do not swim too deep if you have not been trained by a coach. Water pressure raises with depth, so the more you go deep, the more your body, especially head is under pressure.

(as a quick tip, Most divers are taught to equalize by pinching their nose and blowing gently. Called the Valsalva Maneuver, it essentially forces the tubes open with air pressure. The better way is to use the throat muscles to pull your eustachian tubes open the way nature intended — by swallowing)

Do not high dive or dive from any height unless you are trained for that, do not think that because water is penetrable, it is easy to do that. It is a lot more complicated than that and there have been people who have broken bones or even died from jumping from a height to water.

Try to train your body in balance, for example try passing the ball with both hands in water polo or try side kicks in both sides. Even try to breathe from both sides in breaststroke.

Talk to your nutritionist and ask him for an increase in fat intake. Working out inside water really dries out skin. Also be sure you take enough multi-vitamin and essential fatty acids. If you still think your body is losing its softness, try some lotion or lubricant.

Check your allergies serious. Water sports are a bad place for allergies to get worsen. Also a large number of people in swimming pools have developed problem with their sinuses(connected system of hollow cavities in the skull).

In addition, older adults should never engage in water exercise without someone else near the pool. Most community pools, lakes, and beaches have lifeguards.

what water sports do we have(list of water sports)?

Water is not just about swimming, there are lots of sports that you can perform inside water, here we are going to introduce some of them.

  • Aquajogging: involves wearing a flotation device around your middle and then moving your arms and legs in a running motion in the deep end of the pool. Your feet should not touch the floor of the pool and you should make slow forward progress. It is probably the most common form of cross training among elite athletes.
  • Artistic or Synchronised swimming: athletic movements performed in water and choreographed to music. Competitors need strength and flexibility to perform twists and lifts as well as rhythm and flair to synchronise and interpret the music, which they listen to through underwater speakers.
  • Diving: the sport of jumping or falling into water from a platform or springboard, usually while performing acrobatics. Diving is an internationally recognized sport that is part of the Olympic Games.
  • Finswimming: an underwater sport consisting of four techniques involving swimming with the use of fins either on the water’s surface using a snorkel with either monofins or bifins or underwater with monofin either by holding one’s breath or using open circuit scuba diving equipment
  • Rescue swimming: is swimming with the goal to rescue other swimmers and lifeguards have to train this type constantly. it needs a lot of power and endurance
  • Water basketball and water volleyball, mixes the rules of basketball and volleyball and water polo, played in a swimming pool. Teams of usually five players
  • Water polo: a competitive team sport played in water between two teams of 7 players each. The game consists of four quarters in which the two teams attempt to score goals by throwing the ball into the opposing team’s goal. The team with the most goals at the end of the game wins the match.