Water Exercises For Improving Your Glucose Tolerance

Have you ever thought of water exercise as a convenient and effective workout alternative? If not, now might be the time for you to leave the land and get into the water. This workout will challenge your body in a new way, increasing your endurance and muscular strength.

Because the buoyancy of water mitigates the force of gravity, water exercise lowers the stress on joints, bones, and muscles. This is important for those who are experiencing weight gain or foot pain due to diabetes.

Water exercise has also been shown to improve glucose tolerance. In June of 2008, The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness reported that people with diabetes who participated in hour-long, twice-weekly water workouts had favorable changes in glucose and lipid metabolism.

Along with building endurance, resisting the water 360 degrees around the body causes all of the muscles of the body to expend more energy as they contract to keep you upright and stable.

The extra aerobic endurance and greater energy use by the muscles results in improved weight loss. Remember, muscles burn calories twenty-four hours a day, so the more muscle tissue you have, the faster your metabolism will be.

The following are a few water terms you will want to be familiar with:

Buoyancy is the vertical force that pushes things upward in the water, opposing the force of gravity. You must overcome this force in order to keep your feet on the bottom of the pool. The deeper the water, the greater the effect of buoyancy on your body.

Drag refers to the resistance your body feels when moving through the water. You can increase this resistance by increasing the surface area of your body as it moves through the water. For example, use an open-fingered hand as opposed to a closed-fingered hand.

Turbulence is a disturbance of the water’s stillness.

Warm up by spending a few minutes in the shallow water walking or jogging forward, backward, and sideways. You can even do jumping jacks, hopscotch, or cross country ski movements.

After the warm-up, increase the intensity of your jogging, skiing, and walking movements. You can add high knee movements, twist movements, and heel touches. Keep in mind that your heart rate will be seven to 15 beats per minute lower than during land exercise.

For strength training in the water, the following exercises should be performed for 8 to 10 repetitions. Begin with one set and work your way up to three sets. If you do not have paddles or water dumbbells, empty milk jugs with the cap on will provide a unique resistance prop, or small beach balls can be used.

Chest Fly: Stand chest deep in the water and hold a paddle in each hand with your palms facing outward. Begin with your arms extended out to your sides at shoulder level, keeping the paddles in the water. Hold your stomach tight and your back straight.  Exhaling, squeeze your hands towards each other while contracting your chest.  Inhaling, release your hands out to your sides. 

Tricep Push: Stand chest deep in the water and hold a paddle in each hand. Bend your elbows and place them next to your rib cage with your arms at a 90 degree angle. Face your palms toward the floor, or, for more challenge, face your palms up.  Exhaling, straighten your arms, bringing your hands to the tops of your legs.  Inhaling, slowly release to start position.

Regular Crunch: Lie on your back and tighten your stomach. (You can place a noodle behind your back and under your arms.) Exhaling, bring your knees towards your chest.  Inhaling, slowly straighten your legs to start position. For increased resistance, place a small beach ball between your knees.

Diamond Crunch: Lie on your back and bring the soles of your feet together.  Bend your knees out to the sides so that your legs form the shape of a diamond.  Tighten your stomach.  Exhaling, bring your knees toward your chest. Inhaling, slowly straighten your legs to start position. For increased resistance, place a small beach ball between your feet.

Wall Walking: Move to the side of the pool and place your hands on the top. Lift your feet off the floor and place your toes on the wall. Using your hands and feet, “walk” down the wall to the end and then reverse to come back to start position.


  • Always warm up
  • Take breaks for rest or drinking water when needed
  • Stretch your arms, legs, and back after exercising
  • Never swim alone
  • Make sure a lifeguard is on duty
  • Wear your medical ID bracelet

Lisa M. Wolfe is a freelance writer and fitness instructor. She has participated in and taught water exercise for over ten years. For more information, please visit  www.lisamwolfe.com

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