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Aquatic HIIT Can Help People With Diabetes, Arthritis & Other Conditions

Hannah Frye
Author:
December 01, 2023
Hannah Frye
Assistant Beauty & Health Editor
By Hannah Frye
Assistant Beauty & Health Editor
Hannah Frye is the Assistant Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.S. in journalism and a minor in women’s, gender, and queer studies from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Hannah has written across lifestyle sections including health, wellness, sustainability, personal development, and more.
Female Athlete Stretching Before a Swim
Image by Jacob Lund / iStock
December 01, 2023

The road to a go-to exercise regimen looks different for everyone. The goal is finding movement you enjoy (and thus can stay committed to) but that also loves your body back and doesn't cause injury. For folks with chronic health concerns, the search can be especially difficult. But according to new research, there's one workout in particular that may prove beneficial for those with chronic conditions—and we bet you haven't tried it before.

High-intensity water exercise may help those with chronic conditions

A new study published in the journal BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine found beneficial effects of aquatic high-intensity interval training (AHIIT) on exercise capacity (the maximum amount of physical exertion that a person can sustain) in adults with chronic health conditions.

The review collected data from 18 studies that included 868 participants who reported at least one chronic health condition, including chronic musculoskeletal, respiratory, cardiovascular, metabolic, and neurological conditions. Arthritis, heart disease, asthma, obesity, and diabetes were a few of the most common conditions reported.

After analyzing the evidence, researchers concluded that "a wide range of people with chronic conditions found beneficial effects of AHIIT on exercise capacity, some with multiple conditions."

Aquatic HIIT provides an alternative to land-based HIIT, which is notoriously hard on the muscles and joints. Like traditional HIIT, it combines aerobic and strength training exercises that get the heart pumping, followed by recovery periods. 

HIIT moves like jumping jacks, scissor kicks, squats, and butt kicks, can all be completed in the pool—and may even be more enjoyable there. The benefit of doing these exercises in the pool comes from the added buoyancy. The way your body moves in the water ensures there's less pressure and harsh impact on the joints, which can be helpful for those with limited mobility. 

While this study found that those with chronic conditions may be able to better tolerate AHIIT1, it didn't look into how their bodies responded to it in terms of muscle gains or aerobic fitness. As for long-term strength benefits, we'll need more research to compare the two exercise forms. 

One obvious limitation here is that AHIIT is not offered at every gym or recreation center. But hopefully, with increasing research on the workout regimen, it will soon be more widely available.

The takeaway

A new review study found that aquatic high-intensity interval training (AHIIT) can have beneficial effects on exercise capacity in people with a range of chronic musculoskeletal, respiratory, cardiovascular, metabolic, and neurological conditions. AHIIT isn't as widely available as traditional HIIT training, but hopefully, research will encourage increased offerings in the future. Here are more workout methods for optimal longevity if you're still on the hunt for something new to try. 

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