Water-based exercise improves health-related aspects of fitness in older women

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2002 Mar;34(3):544-51. doi: 10.1097/00005768-200203000-00024.


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to determine the physiological responses of elderly women to a well-rounded exercise program performed in water (WEX).

Methods: The participants (60-75 yr of age) were randomly divided into a training (TR) group (N = 15) and a control group (N = 15). The TR group participated in a 12-wk supervised WEX program, 70 min x day(-1), 3 d x wk(-1). The WEX consisted of 20 min of warm-up and stretching exercise, 10 min of resistance exercise, 30 min of endurance-type exercise (walking and dancing), and 10 min of cool-down exercise.

Results: The WEX led to an increase (P < 0.05) in peak VO2 (12%) and VO2 at lactate threshold (20%). Muscular strength evaluated by a hydraulic resistance machine increased significantly at resistance dial setting 8 (slow) for knee extension (8%), knee flexion (13%), chest press (7%) and pull (11%), shoulder press (4%) and pull (6%), and back extension (6%). Vertical jump (9%), side-stepping agility (22%), trunk extension (11%), and FEV1.0 (7%) also increased significantly. There was a significant decrease in skin-fold thickness (-8%), low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (-17%), and total cholesterol (-11%). There were no significant changes in these variables in the control group.

Conclusion: These results indicate that WEX elicits significant improvements in cardiorespiratory fitness, muscular strength, body fat, and total cholesterol in older adult women. Water-based exercise appears to be a very safe and beneficial mode of exercise that can be performed as part of a well-rounded exercise program.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Body Composition
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lipids / blood
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Physical Fitness*


  • Lipids