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Tuesday, September 04, 2012
Water and the Quality of Life
by Ashley Fox 

We all know that aquatic exercise is good for the body, but what you may not know is that it is also good for the mind. Most people feel refreshed after jumping in the pool on a hot summer day. That same refreshing feeling can be experienced after jumping in for aquatic exercise. Research has shown that aquatic exercise can decrease the heart rate, reduce impact to musculoskeletal system and assist in maintaining aerobic conditioning, but now it also shows elevated mood and decreased depression.

In the last 10 years aquatic research began looking past the typical physiological effects and focusing on the mental benefits of exercise. Several studies have proven that aquatics can not only lift your mood with exercise but also help those manage conditions, such as depression and fibromyalgia (Brass, J.E., 2007, Sato, D., 2007, Sato, D., 2009). There are stress-relieving exercises, such as Yoga and Tai Chi, which many people are familiar with on land that can be translated to the water for additional relaxation (Scanun, A., 2008, Wei, B., 2006). Individuals in these studies reported a better quality of life after an extended time period participating in aquatic exercise, as well as a lifted mood after each session. These exercises allowed them to physically feel relaxed, which translated to a happier mood. The data was collected in questionnaire form, so all of the data is based upon what the participants said. This is the way most of the research in this particular area is collected. However some researchers have started testing for hormonal changes to indicate increased or decreased stress levels. One researcher tested for these changes using saliva, however this study found land exercise to be less stressful (Kelley 2008).

Another group that can benefit from exercising in the water is pregnant women. The water environment allows an effective workout with less stress to the body. This is especially relevant later in pregnancy when that can be difficult to achieve on land. Many of the women in this study reported a decreased body image due to the weight gain from the pregnancy. Most of these women felt that the aquatic workout was able to give them a better quality of life during this time. It allowed them the independence to complete a full exercise session, while helping to reduce back pain and increase their self-confidence and body awareness. Aquatics programs have also been shown to help decrease postpartum depression (Vallim, 2011). All of the women were interviewed in each trimester and also filled out questionnaires pertaining to the workout (Vallim, 2011).

One of the great features of aquatic exercise is that it has been shown to be beneficial for people of all ages. from children to the elderly. The water not only allows older adults to perform exercises that may not be possible on land, but it also provided an opportunity to socialize with other people their age (Sato, D., 2007). Aquatic fitness can be utilized long term with continuous positive results (Sato, D., 2009). Individuals with diseases, such as fibromyalgia, can also benefit from movement with less pain or discomfort. One of the negative effects with diseases such as fibromyalgia is that it may lead to depression. Luckily the aquatic environment can help with that too. Research has shown that extended aquatic exercise can help to lessen the effects of depression in some individuals (Brass J.E., 2007).

I have been fortunate enough to see the results first hand. I conducted a study on a 21-year-old healthy female, comparing her mood and mental health before and after both aquatic and land workouts. She ran on a treadmill for 20 minutes one day and then would run in the water for 20 minutes at the same tempo another day. These sessions alternated days so she was not over worked, which might skew the results. She completed a survey after each session that inquired about her mood pre and post workout along with daily stressors that could affect the outcomes. Her heart rate was also taken pre and post workout to compare the workout intensities. The results were similar to the ones found in the previously mentioned studies. The aquatic workouts were more pleasurable and left her feeling more rejuvenated and in a better mood. Whereas, running on the treadmill left her fatigued and with a decreased overall mood. She physically felt more refreshed after working out in the water as well, even though the same amount of work was done in both situations. She also looked forward to the days with the aquatic workouts; an important positive factor as many people dread exercising.

While most of the results studying mood and aquatic exercise point in the same direction, there is still much more research needed. A larger quantity of studies on a wider variety of patients can help to solidify these findings. However, the positive qualities of aquatic exercise seem to be limitless, and can be seen from head-to-toe with all ages. Getting in the water for your next workout can provided an effective workout for your body and mind, while leaving you feeling refreshed and in a good mood.


Brass, J. E., & Federoff, L. (2007). Psychological benefits of water aerobics for fibromyalgia patients. International Journal of Aquatic Research & Education, 1(3), 255-268. Retrieved from
Kelley, C., & Loy, D. P. (2008). Comparing the effects of aquatic and land-based exercise on the physiological stress response of women with fibromyalgia. Therapeutic Recreation Journal, 42(2), 103-118. Retrieved from
Sato, D., Kaneda, K., Wakabayashi, H., & Nomura, T. (2007). The water exercise improves health-related quality of life of frail elderly people at day service facility. Quality of Life Research, 16(10), 1577-1585. doi:10.1007/s11136-007-9269-2
Sato, D., Kaneda, K., Wakabayashi, H., & Nomura, T. (2009). Comparison two-year effects of once-weekly and twice-weekly water exercise on health-related quality of life of community-dwelling frail elderly people at a day-service facility. Disability & Rehabilitation, 31(2), 84-93. doi:10.1080/09638280701817552
Scanun, A. (2008). Meet the experts: Water for the mind and body. Fitness Management, 24(1), 42-43. Retrieved from
Vallim, A. L., Osis, M. J., Cecatti, J. G., Baciuk, É. P., Silveira, C., & Cavalcante, S. (2011). Water exercises and quality of life during pregnancy. Reproductive Health, 8(1), 14-20. doi:10.1186/1742-4755-8-14
Wei, B., & Kilpatrick, M. (2006). Psychological perceptions to walking, water aerobics and yoga in college students. American Journal of Health Studies, 21(3), 142-147. Retrieved from A

Ashley Fox is a college senior at West Virginia University studying exercise physiology. She will graduate in 2012 and currently lives in Morgantown, West Virginia.
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