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.

mindful movements

By Sandy Stoub and Mushi Harush

screenshot_2015-12-13-21-25-09Everyone knows the power of the mind.  It controls all of our body processes through a series of electrical responses traveling through the central and peripheral nervous systems.  There is a significant complexity related to neuro-transmission and for as much as medical science knows about the function of the human body, much of the complex functionality of the brain still remains a mystery.  Mind/Body programs have become a popular trend in fitness and aquatics over the last few years and many organizations are creating mindful movement programs and incorporating yoga, Tai-Chi, Pilates, and Ai Chi into classes for all ages. This article looks beyond what is traditionally considered the mind and body linkage in fitness programs and considers the complexity of the brain and how cognitive retention can be achieved in the presence of exercise.  It is important to “exercise” both the body and the mind, and in tandem, the potential for improvement is significant.

One of the two largest health concerns expressed by seniors and baby boomers is forgetfulness.  As people are living longer, issues of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease is more prevalent.  Longevity has certainly shown these issues to be more evident.  During the course of normal aging, a particular type of memory, episodic, is lost.  While procedural memory (the how to) and semantic memory (what is) are both retained in the course of normal aging, episodic (where did I leave my keys, or who was in that movie?) seems to slip away.

Within our brain, billions of neurons send electrical and chemical signals that create memories.  Over time, the signals weaken, and the brain shrinks by about a half percent per year after the age of thirty, although the impact is not noticed for years.  Episodic memory relies on the frontal lobes, which starts shrinking first. Although people will accept an age-related decline in physical activity, mental decline is more frightening.

The study of brain “power” and brain “fitness” has emerged as a hot topic within the medical and gerontology community.  Research-based memory enhancement programs are being developed and marketed to retirement communities and other agencies who service persons who are aging.  In 2003 a study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine found that if a person participates in board games, crossword puzzles, reading, or playing a musical instrument were less likely to develop dementia than someone who did not engage in mentally challenging activities at all.  New products and services are being developed to enhance memory, some with staggering results.   The term “use it or lose it” applies to more than the body, it applies to the mind as well.

Since cardiovascular activity increases blood-flow to both skeletal muscles and the brain, one might ask if cognitive improvements could be enhanced when a brain power program was integrated into a physical fitness class.  Fitness professionals already know that when a person is both physically and mentally engaged during activity that the physical outcomes are improved.  In relaxation-based activity, a person can elicit a great relaxation response if they are quiet and mentally engaged, or are present in the moment.  How many of our participants seem to be going through the motions in a group setting, almost having an “out of body” experience.  Their body is in the pool, but their brain left the building.   Not only does distraction increase the risk of injury during exercise, but it also diminishes the return on their physical investment.

So, how do we incorporate mind and body coordinated activity into our programs?  As we combine the engagement of cognitive tasks during physical activity it trains a participant to muti-task, systematically, thus challenging the mind and body through stimulation of both systems simultaneously.  It coordinates the use of the procedural memory with semantic memory.   Drills and progressions enhance outcomes and games allow people to use their creativity and “inner child”. Here are a couple of simple games than can be easily incorporated:

  • Different exercises are assigned a number.  Beginning with a simple movement around the pool, such as running… each time a number is called out, the group has to change exercises by remembering which exercise was which.  Changing the number of repetitions/sequences can increase the level of difficulty.
  • How about the simple concept of “add-on” choreography?  Each time a movement is added, the participant needs to work on recall.  Most times instructors have adapted effective cueing techniques that minimize the need to remember the sequence, but what about teaching in silence or asking them to call out the moves?
  • Brain-teaser riddles could be shared during class.
  • Teaching movement patterns with a-typical arm/leg patterns can also improve coordination and recall.

The study of brain function, memory retention, and cognitive decline is critical to help fully understand the impact of aging.  As more persons live actively and independently as seniors, seeking to continue to be engaged fully with family and friends, the process of incorporating mindful movements, engaging the mind and body together in harmony, will continue to become an important element to consider as part of a wellness and lifestyle plan.  Explore this concept at IAFC in the AWS workshop “ Mindful Movements-Fitness for Mind and Body” being taught by Mushi Harush and Sandy Stoub.

AQUATON 2014 organized by the iaec Israeli aquatic exercise center

Aquaton, an event, started by Rose Hartzenberg, from south Africa, that involved 52 countries around the world. The goal, is to experience a special day of aquatic exercise and donate to a local organization. The Israeli aquatic exercise center organized it at the Municipal pool of Raanana, the 7/11/2014, and donated the money of this event to the SPECIAL OLYMPICS ISRAEL!

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What is water exercise anyway ?

The Aerobic exercise, the fitness queen of the 80s left many orthopedic disorders and lead to the birth of the Aquatic exercise: the perfect way to improve Cardio respiratory System, Flexibility, Muscular strength and endurance, body composition and more.

Aquatic exercise can involve the upper and lower extremities through optimal ranges of motion while minimizing joint stress.

The water environment allows high levels of energy expenditure with relatively little strain to the body

Almost everyone, (No need for swimming skills) Including athletes and regular people looking for a safe workout to practice and improve fitness levels, can practice aquatic exercise.

  • soft tissue injuries
  • low bone density
  • obesity
  • CVA (cardio vascular accident- better known as a stroke)
  • elderly
  • And many more…

Main advantages of Aquatic exercise:

It is fun!

The great atmosphere, the specially edited music, the water and its unique effect no the body and soul, the group of people sharing the same experience; make it all a fun exercise to all.

  • Lower cardiac cost:

    Cardio respiratory endurance is easily sustained in the water and for this reason more demanding exercise can be achieved with lower cardiac costs.

  • Enhances flexibility:

    Flexibility can be enhanced because the muscles are able to work through a greater range of motion when supported by the water.

  • Better Muscular strength and Endurance:

    Muscular strength is increased when muscles are worked against water resistance which is 12 times more difficult than on land.

  • Better body composition:

    Body composition is enhanced due to the fat burning effect of the cardio respiratory segment and lean tissue increased due to muscle output against the water resistance. This is an important advantage for overweight individuals who are able to exercise with greater freedom of movement, with less stress on their joints.

  • General well Being:

    Water provides psychological benefits for those using it as a training environment or as a means of improving general fitness, and relaxation.