Study says this activity may be the best way for older people to stay healthy

Quarantine has made maintaining physical health very challenging. Among the safer ways to keep active is swimming.

Water-based exercises like aqua-aerobics are great ways for the elderly to stay healthy because they’re not strenuous on the joints when performed in moderation.

A new paper published by the frontiers in Physiology journaladditionally posits that water exercises can offer comparable benefits to traditional gym workouts as far as cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk is concerned.

The researchers also determined habitual swimming yields benefits to balance, mobility, and mitigating the effects associated with peripheral arterial disease.

“Cardiovascular aging is implicated in the development of CVD. Aquatic exercise is being considered as a co-adjuvant form of rehabilitation, but there is limited evidence for its cardiovascular risk-reduction properties for older people,” the authors wrote in the new paper. “Our study aimed to address this by exploring the cardiovascular effects of long-term aquatic exercise in older adults in comparison to those who are either inactive or engaged in land-based/mixed training by measurement of micro-and macro-circulation. Flow Mediated Dilatation (FMD) was the primary outcome.”

To demonstrate their hypothesis, the authors recruited a study sample comprised of 80 people over the age of 55.

All of the participants reported normal blood pressure levels before the start of analysis and none had pre-existing clinical conditions.

“We avoided recruiting people who regularly performed high-intensity exercise, such as crossfit. This was to ensure that all the exercise regimes we compared were as similar as possible, and because high-intensity exercise can be difficult to perform in water,” the authors continued.

“In order to see what effect exercise was having on cardiovascular health, we measured how efficient the inner vein lining (endothelium) of their small veins and large arteries were. Endothelium is crucial for minimizing cardiovascular disease risk at any age.”

The participants exercised an average of four times a week, for roughly six months. Each was assigned to three groups: those who trained in the water, those who trained in a gym or took exercise classes, and those who did a mixture of both. These three groups were subsequently compared with a group that didn’t exercise at all.

The authors concluded that all three produced similar benefits to one another with respect to heart disease risk. The relevant mechanisms aren’t entirely clear but the researchers suspect that regular exercise can increase the production of nitric oxide in the body, which is essential for preserving endothelial function in both small veins and arteries. The more nitric oxide in the body, the better arteries, and small veins function.

“Cardiovascular disease remains a main cause of death for older people. While exercise – either alone or alongside a healthy diet – can protect against cardiovascular disease, older people often don’t get as much exercise as they should. For example, statistics show that only 13% of women over 75 meet daily physical activity recommendations for their age group,” the authors explained in a media release.

“This is why our findings may be particularly important, as we’re the first to directly show that water-based exercise is as good for cardiovascular health as exercising in a gym, for the older age-group. This means people can choose a form of exercise that causes less pain, stress, or strain on joints, but will still benefit their heart health. This may be especially good news for people who may be more frail, or for those who are afraid of handling gym equipment.”