Easier to sweat while wet, study finds
October 30th, 2012
12:02 AM ET

Easier to sweat while wet, study finds

During spinning class, I often find myself wishing I was in a pool. For one, water would make the sweat dripping down my back less noticeable. Two, it has to be easier to sneak a break when the instructor can’t see your legs below the surface.

A new study presented this week at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress suggests there might also be other - more important - benefits to hydro-spinning.

The study analyzed cardiovascular data from 33 young, healthy participants who performed the same workout on a dry land stationary bike and on a water stationary bike.

Also called hydro-riders or aqua bikes, water stationary bicycles are anchored to the bottom of a pool so that cyclists are submerged up to their shoulders. Resistance can be added by changing the pedal size or, in some bikes, the angle of plates in the wheels.

Researchers found that participants’ oxygen consumption and average heart rates were lower while riding in the water. In other words, their cardiovascular systems were working more efficiently to do the same amount of exercise.

Study author Dr. Martin Juneau is director of prevention at the Montreal Heart Institute in Canada. The institute’s EPIC center offers “Aquavelo” fitness classes and opens its water stationary bicycles up to members during open swim. Juneau says the bikes were so popular they had to start printing tickets to reserve workout times.

Aqua bikes were originally created for rehab of knee injuries in athletes, Juneau says. But because water makes us virtually weightless, hydro-spinning is also used for obese or arthritic patients who want a low-impact workout.

“Patients love it,” Juneau says. “They feel it’s easier, but when you look at the increase in (aerobic) capacity, it’s just as good as land training.”

The researchers believe hydrostatic pressure (or the pressure of the water) on the body makes it easier for your system to return blood to the heart. This reduces the number of times your heart has to beat – lowering the average heart rate and amount of oxygen needed to sustain an intense workout.

The study needs to be duplicated with more participants to confirm the results, Juneau says. Further research is also needed to see if the effects are the same for older and/or overweight cyclists.

soundoff (68 Responses)
  1. Marla Heller, MS, RD

    With lower oxygen utilization, wouldn't there be less fat burning? Independently of the amount of calories burned?

    October 30, 2012 at 00:13 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mark

      Very little fat is burned through exercise anyways. If the goal is to have less fat in the blood stream, the best route is through diet control.

      October 30, 2012 at 12:43 | Report abuse |
    • Mc

      "Very little fat is burned through exercise anyway"

      Amazingly stupid comment.

      October 30, 2012 at 15:52 | Report abuse |
    • Paul

      No, MC, it's amazingly educated. Most of what you burn during any reasonable period of exercise is sugar and glycogen (a carbohydrate) stored in your muscles. Now marathoners may be burning fat, but not many people exercise for more than an hour at a time.

      October 31, 2012 at 09:43 | Report abuse |
    • The_Mick

      I would think yes. But something's wrong with the lines in the story that: "The researchers believe hydrostatic pressure (or the pressure of the water) on the body makes it easier for your system to return blood to the heart. This reduces the number of times your heart has to beat – lowering the average heart rate and amount of oxygen needed to sustain an intense workout." If your blood is flowing to the heart more easily, it's certainly also flowing through the lungs more easily so there's no reason the amount of oxygen should fall and there's certainly no comprehensible reason oxygen usage would drop during an intense workout anyway.
      Studies have shown that the body of a runner or cyclist tends to burn almost all carbs and not fats if it's working at less than 65% max. heart rate. The "sweet spot" for weight loss is 65%-85%. I'm 62 and my measured max. heart rate is 161 bpm. I have my GPS exercise watch/heart monitor set to beep if my heart rate during cycling exceeds 145 bpm (90% max.) and also if it drops below 105 (65% max.).
      Still ANY exercise is good and if this gets obese people moving, excess calories burned will cause some fat loss and will also trigger the body to produce more fat-burning enzymes and allow for transport of more fatty acids during exercise. I myself was a lifelong runner who, after Achilles tendon operations became sedentary and obese, discovered cycling when running generated too much tendonitis. I've lost 30 lbs.

      October 31, 2012 at 17:19 | Report abuse |
  2. fernace

    I'd bet since the water keeps the body from getting overheated, that is also a reason why this works! Living in a climate that stays between 90–100 degrees 5–6 months out of the year, I know from personal experience that a workout in an outdoor pool still leaves a person feeling refreshed, even at those temps! Can't say that about a jog, or a picnic in the park! A person still needs to stay hydrated (& sunsrceened), but even that need seems to decrease while you're in a body of water on a hot day! Wonder why this study didn't mention that aspect!!

    October 30, 2012 at 06:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Fred


      October 30, 2012 at 15:06 | Report abuse |
  3. GRS62

    I just hope that break Jacque is taking in the pool is from the workout and not a potty break.

    October 30, 2012 at 12:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. MJLawe

    Don't understand why having a lower heart rate is preferred here. Lower heart rate means less effort, right? As you get older, your maximum heart rate goes down. How is this a good thing?

    October 31, 2012 at 01:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. buffalo

    Yes, lets make exercise easier so fat people can do it too!

    October 31, 2012 at 03:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • KWayne

      Yes, let's. If more fat people exercise then maybe they'll ultimately end up being in better shape.

      November 1, 2012 at 15:43 | Report abuse |
  6. jane

    Enjoy the water anyway you can. It is ALWAYS refreshing.

    October 31, 2012 at 04:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Lou Cypher

    It is easier

    October 31, 2012 at 10:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. robertoaribas

    look carefully at his face, I think he just peed in the pool...

    October 31, 2012 at 18:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Steve

    I think this is part of the mamillian Diving Response. In water, a humans (or any mammals) pulse lowers and they use oxygen more efficiently. This is why free-divers can hold their breath for 5+ minutes. I free-dive and spearfish myself and when I first enter the water I can only hold my breath for a minute, After 15 or 20 minutes the reflex kicks in, I relax and can stay on the bottom in 30-50 feet of water for over 2 minutes. Its a natural response of mammals in water.

    October 31, 2012 at 22:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Grivin

    it looks easy to do.http://www.amazon.com/MIRA-Instant-Digital-Bathroom-lighted/dp/B005QSI8A0

    November 1, 2012 at 13:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. physical.com

    I came to know about the breathing exercise under water..and the activities which are performed under water are beneficial to health and heart.. i would like to learn more from your blog.. looking forward for more post..

    November 6, 2012 at 06:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Olivier Fortier

    I'm going to the Centre Epic in Montreal 3-4 times a week, doing aqua-bike twice a week.
    After 2 months of aquabike, my resistance to effort was considerably bettered. It was horrible at first, and now I enjoy it so much that I push myself much more than what the coach is asking us for.

    I don't diet really, I just changed my food portions a little and eat more veggies/fruits. I lost 30 lbs since July.
    It would probably have been much harder and painful if my sport activities weren't in the water.

    November 9, 2012 at 08:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bob

      Thanks for your life story – im sure someone out there cares......

      November 13, 2012 at 17:46 | Report abuse |
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    Do any of you know the name of the original article?

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