It’s not news that working out in water is good for you—especially when you have joint pain that comes with tons of endurance training or weight lifting. By cross training in water, you get the muscle-building resistance you want, in an almost-zero impact environment. But can a cardio workout in a pool truly substitute for an on-land cardio workout?
The answer, according to a study published today by the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress, is yes. The congress tested a group of athletes on stationary bikes, some in the pool and some on-land. It measured the athletes’ oxygen consumption and found that those doing the pool workout had a near-equivalent aerobic workout to athletes using a stationary bike on land—even though they moved less quickly due to the water’s resistance.
Though athletes in the pool had a slightly lower heart rate, according to Dr. Martin Juneau, director of prevention at the Montreal Heart Institute, it wasn’t because they were working less. “You don’t need as many heartbeats, because the pressure of the water on your legs and lower body makes the blood return more effectively to the heart,” he says. “If you can’t train on land, you can train in the water and have the same benefits in terms of improving aerobic fitness.”
Bottom line: if you’re feeling sore after yesterday’s run, and your knees just can’t take anymore pounding for today’s workout, find a pool. No need to skip the gym and garbage your routine.