Water Exercise and Childhood Obesity



Childhood Obesity News has talked about exercise, which may not be The Answer to childhood obesity, or even a big factor. But weight loss aside, physical motion and exertion are beneficial to the body and mind and yes, even the emotions. Dr. Colin Higgs has discussed 15 of the benefits, and there are probably more. We also talked about some of the difficulties connected with exercise, obstacles that can seem insurmountable, even for kids who want to change.

This led to thoughts of the elderly, who share some of the same health issues as the obese, such as joint pain and a tendency to break bones. Swimming can be recommended to overweight kids for many therapeutically sound reasons. In the realm of obesity treatment, water exercise is highly regarded. A website called LiveStrong is particularly enthusiastic about it. “Swimming Exercises for Obese People” is the title of one of their articles, written by Lisa Mooney, who says:

Obese individuals are more likely to benefit from low-impact aerobic exercises in the pool… shallow-water activities including simple walking or slow jogging… jumping jacks, side shuffling across the pool and jumps. Obese persons can dog paddle, practice dolphin or frog kicks while holding a kick-board in front of them and tread water.

Perhaps most importantly, these exercises are safer for heavy persons to do than typical land exercises. The water cushions the joints and is good for the participants’ blood circulation. The swimming exercises can provide a whole-body workout while burning fat and calories. Obese persons also benefit from staying cooled off in the pool so they are able to work out longer than they could in other environments.

Convincing! Mooney notes that another authority is more in favor of deep water workouts, to protect the joints from impact with the bottom of the pool. It would depend on the individual. For instance, deep water might not be right for a child, because learning to swim for survival in the deep end is a whole separate issue, and a potentially traumatizing one. Maybe gentle movements in the safety of the shallow end of the pool are enough for now.

Gentleness is, in fact, the key. Mooney says this about it:

Once in the water, an obese person should be conscious of not overdoing his workout. It is particularly easy to overextend yourself as the water gives you the illusion of being lighter and, therefore, not working out as hard as if you were on land.

The journalist issues the caveat that of course, as always, no program of exercise, on land or in water, should be undertaken without consulting your doctor first. And that goes double for the obese, who tend to have more health issues to watch out for. Over on the right-hand side of the LiveStrong page is an extensive list of other articles on water exercise for the obese. And that’s just one website out of many.

A swim session just for obese kids could be a wonderful thing to organize. If everybody is overweight, wouldn’t that minimize locker-room embarrassment? On the other hand, it’s human nature to compare oneself with others in any environment. One of the easiest rationalizations in the world to make is, “I may be fat, but as long as I’m not as big as Hippopotamus Boy over there, I’m okay.” In addiction medicine, that sort of thing is known as “denial.”

This is not meant to endorse a specific product or program, but a video clip called “Working with Pool Noodles Fitness Fun” gives an indication of what’s out there, in the world of water exercise. The main thing to remember is, not to think of water exercise or any exercise as the cure for obesity, but as a splendid way to give your body a healthy dose of the rejuvenating motion that it craves. Good results will come naturally.


Media Bonus: from the satirical publication The Onion, a 2:27 video clip with perhaps a bit of adult language.
Fat Kid Avoids Ridicule By Swimming With Shirt

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Swimming Exercises for Obese People,” LiveStrong.com, 06/14/11
Image by bterrycompton (Berkeley T. Compton), used under its Creative Commons license.


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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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