If You Do It, You Lose it…

Deep Water Training for the Overweight Individual

By Mushi Harush, MA, AEA Aquatic Training Specialist

The World Health Organization (WHO) has designated obesity as one of the most important public health threats because of the significant impact of diseases associated with obesity. Childhood obesity has more than doubled in the United States since the late 1970’s. Seventy percent of children, ages ten to thirteen, whose obesity goes untreated, will become obese adults. (2) Obesity in adults increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.

The onset of this common health condition can be avoided by adhering to behaviors that are conducive to enhanced metabolic rates:  multiple, fragmented and balanced meals, increased daily physical activity and reduction of stress.  Controlled physical activities trigger physiological reactions that bring the mind and body into a self-healing balance. The mind and body have an intelligent dialogical synergy of their own. Losing excess levels of body fat can be attained by a healthy diet and regular exercise that achieves a negative balance between calories consumed and calories burned. (4)

Research has shown that regular cardiovascular and resistance training programs will enhance burning of calories.  Deep water exercise can become an integral factor for achieving weight loss goals as this training modality gives the overweight individual freedom of movement, which is much more difficult to achieve on land. Deep water exercise gives the opportunity for the overweight individual to be unexposed (i.e. the body is submerged), weightless, active in an environment that is not competitive, and safe in terms of potential risk for injury – such as overuse and impact stress to the ankle and knee joints.  Participants can use the large muscles of the body in a continuous, rhythmical manner and comfortably adjust the effort of exercise to achieve various workout intensities in the water. Overloading the cardiorespiratory system by varying the exercise intensity through challenging interval, circuit or continuous training formats can be beneficial for optimizing energy expenditure. Resistance training segments should also be included.  Muscle conditioning (endurance as well as strength enhancement) is an important part of the session to preserve and possibly increase muscle mass, which is especially important in conjunction with a weight-loss diet.

One of the common discomforts the overweight individual experiences is low back pain.  Deep water can often minimize or alleviate this condition, but is imperative to cue for good alignment using core training concepts throughout the duration of the entire workout – cardiorespiratory, resistance and stretching segments.  Allow modifications and self-pacing as needed for each individual to train at a safe and effective level within the confines of his or her own physical parameters.

Adherence to a regular life-long exercise program is maybe one of the most important goals for us, as fitness professionals, to help our students and clients achieve.   Losing weight is sometimes the easy part…maintaining this weight loss can be the real problem!  We should strive to turn each exercise session into a unique experience of achievement and enjoyment by motivating and celebrating each person’s success.  At the end of every class it is recommended to organize activities that will enhance peace of mind, which has a valuable therapeutic significance in the adjustment of self-identity that successful long-term weight loss inevitably needs.

התעמלות במים

Case Study

I have stories of success within the program that is offered at Wingate Institute, but possibly one of the most pertinent to water exercise regards a young Israeli man, Michel, who was not accepted into the army because he was overweight.  At the age of 18, Michel weighed 198 kilos (436 pounds), stood189 cm (6.2 feet) tall, and could not walk more than 20 steps without becoming fatigued.  I developed training schedule for him in the water, working one hour a day, six days a week.  Within six weeks of training, Michel lost 17 kilos (37.5 pounds) and he continues on a weight-loss trend.  Now he can walk outside and even plays basketball.  Seeing his progress makes me very proud, mostly because all his aerobic training was in the water!

The weight-loss program “ Winlife”  at  Wingate Institute involves not only designated workout sessions but also includes lectures on health and fitness topics.  After the initial month of 6 days per week diet modification, exercise and education, the participants can continue to participate 4 days per week in a maintenance program that allows for more variety in exercise options. Michel’s personal aquatic program began with 30-minute training sessions for the first week followed by two weeks of progression to a total of 50 minutes per session.  His initial workout included swimming for 10 minutes, walking patterns interspersed with sprints for 10 minutes, and 10 minutes running back and forth between the shallow-end and deep-end.  When this workout became easy, we increased the training times of each segment.


  1. United States Department of Health & Human Services Reports (2000)
  2. The Nemours Foundation.  “KidsHealth.  The Obesity Epidemic – Positive Changes on the Horizon.”  2003.
  3.  The Nemours Foundation.  “TeensHealth.  How Can I Lose Weight safely?”  2002.  http://www.teenshealth.org/teen/food_fitness/  (14 Nov 2003).
  4.  Freeman, B.M., Vella, C.A., Kravitz,L. Women and Weight Loss: Practical Applications for Water   fitness Instructors. AKWA, Vol. 18, No. 3, Page 26  (Oct/Nov 2004)
  5.  Denomme, L.  Weight Loss for Women: C-IT by Thoughtful Aqua Program Design! AKWA, Vol. 18, No. 5, Page 4 (Feb/March, 2005)

Mushi Harush. AEA international aquatic Training Specialist in Israel. . Holds a Master degree in Athletic Administration, of Idaho state university and another in Education and Physical education from Haifa university, PE teacher, at the Wingate Institute for science and sports,. Works in the overweight and the obese Program, for weight loss and health at “WINLIFE” Israel.

 Presented in USA, Europe, Brazil, Mexico, Cyprus and Israel, Is a Swimming coach, lifeguard, and a Watsu practitioner.