Following in the Footsteps of the 'Godfather of Fitness'

At age 60, he swam a mile – from Alcatraz Island to Fisherman's Wharf in the San Francisco Bay.

That feat doesn't sound too impressive...

But when he did it, he was handcuffed, shackled, and pulling a boat weighing half a ton behind him.

Then a decade later, he hauled 70 boats – with a combined total of 70 people on board – for a mile and a half through Long Beach Harbor, in California. And again, this was all while bound by handcuffs and shackles.

But this kind of stunt was commonplace for fitness pioneer Jack LaLanne.

In fact, he was just 36 years old in 1951, when he first made his way into the homes of millions of Americans on the Jack LaLanne Show.

His mission was helping folks get healthier...

And week after week, he led people of all ages through living room exercises – which he called "trimnastics" – and shared tips with them on eating better.

Nicknamed the "Godfather of Fitness," LaLanne was known for his feats of strength, focus on nutrition, and fitness innovation. He once recalled:

People thought I was a charlatan and a nut. The doctors were against me – they said that working out with weights would give people heart attacks and they would lose their sex drive.

Of course, we now know that couldn't be farther from the truth.

After 34 years on the air, the Jack LaLanne Show became the longest running fitness show in history. He was among the first fitness instructors to encourage exercise for women, elderly individuals, and folks with disabilities.

And even before his television stardom, he broke new ground (at just 22 years old) by opening the first modern health club – the Jack LaLanne Physical Culture Studio – which included amenities like a gym, juice bar, and a health food store.

Throughout his career, he invented a number of the exercise machines that we still use today, like the leg extension machine and the squat machine – which is now known as the Smith machine.

LaLanne is also credited as being the very first person to develop a set of exercise for the swimming pool.

He called it "hydronastics."

But today, we call it water aerobics.

Water aerobics is among the best ways to get your body moving... especially in the cold of winter when you want to stay warm and indoors.

That's because exercising in the water offers several natural advantages. So, while I'll bet you're already familiar with water aerobics, here are three reasons why you should give it a try...

1. Water aerobics is easy on your joints.

For folks with soreness and pain in their joints, water aerobics offers a much more comfortable – and enjoyable – way to exercise. And when you're enjoying the way you exercise, you're much more motivated to stick with it.

Water is denser than air. That's why when you're deep enough in the water, you become buoyant. The force of the water pushes you up towards the surface.

This means your body weighs less in the water than on land, and you aren't putting as much pressure on your joints while moving.

In waist-deep water, the amount of weight on your joints is reduced by 50%. In water that comes up to your mid-chest, the amount of weight on your joints is reduced by about 75%. And in water that reaches your shoulders, your weight is reduced to almost 90%.

2. Water aerobics is easy on your heart.

For folks with heart problems, water aerobics offers a safer alternative to working out on land.

Your buoyancy in the water also changes how your blood circulates because your body is less impacted by gravity. As a result, your heart doesn't have to work as hard in the water as it does when you're doing the same activities on land.

For instance, a study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise investigated some of the differences in a small group of healthy, young men while running on a treadmill in the water versus on land.

The researchers found that for a given amount of oxygen getting delivered to the involved tissues ("oxygen uptake" or "VO2") during the exercise, a person's heart rate was eight to 11 beats lower while running in the water. This means that the heart didn't have to work as hard to generate the same amount of energy.

3. Water aerobics helps improve your balance.

Falling poses huge risks to our health as we get older, and water aerobics is a fantastic way to decrease your risk.

That's because being in the water challenges your balance by gently pushing against your body. When these subtle pushes occur while you are buoyant, you have more time to react to them than you do when you're on land.

This allows you to build up the various muscles involved in balancing, as well as your confidence in your ability to balance.

So do what I do and enjoy moving your body in a variety of ways by adding water aerobics to your long list of experiences to try. Doing so will give your aching joints a break, take it a little easier on your heart, and help you build vital skills for balancing.

And who knows... You might just uncover your new favorite activity.

What We're Reading...

Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
January 4, 2024