Feeling a Little Weak in the Knees? Try Deep-Water Running

by Joy Keller on May 01, 2007

The impact of land-based running can often have significantly debilitating effects on the body. Yet running is one of the most popular cardiovascular activities, and enthusiasts have difficulty cutting back, despite the potential for injury. If this is the case with a client of yours, you might suggest deep-water running (DWR) as a more accommodating alternative to the unforgiving terrain of city streets.

A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (2006; 20 [4], 919–27) sought to determine whether two forms of DWR—cross-country (CC) and high-knee (HK)—would provide similar aerobic and kinematic benefits to treadmill running (TR). Researchers tested 20 male and female NCAA Division III runners for VO2max, 60% VO2max and biomechanical kinematics (with markers placed at each joint) during TR. Each athlete was then fitted with an AquaJogger Pro flotation device, entered the deep end of a pool and used the rating of perceived exertion (RPE) scale to determine intensity. The goal was to maintain 60% VO2max. Each athlete performed CC (visually similar to traditional land-based running) for 5–6 minutes, rested and then performed “pistonlike knee movement” for a further 5–6 minutes.

Results determined that both methods of DWR provided similar oxygen consumption to TR. Researchers found biomechanical differences between the methods, in that CC mimicked TR’s range of motion and gait pattern, while HK was similar to TR in stride rate. Athletes reported higher RPE in DWR than in TR, perhaps because of the water’s natural resistance. Study authors concluded that each method of DWR was effective in providing positive physiological effects and suggested that exercisers could request HK or CC depending on whether their focus was specificity of training (in which case, CC would be the better choice) or stride rate (HK would be more desirable).

—Ryan Halvorson

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About the Author

Joy Keller

Joy Keller IDEA Author/Presenter

Joy Keller is executive editor of IDEA Fitness Journal and IDEA Fit Business Success, and is also a certified personal trainer, indoor cycling instructor, yoga teacher (RYT 200) and Reiki Master. Joy joined IDEA Health & Fitness Association in 2002, and brought with her a wealth of information about how to fine-tune communication channels, after having spent her formative career years specializing in business-to-business journalism. Before she even graduated with honors from the respected University of Georgia journalism school, Joy was offered a job at one of the most successful trade publishing companies in the southeast, Shore Varrone, Inc. She made her mark in the automotive aftermarket industry as a creative thinker and journalist with an intuitive knack for researching and understanding niche audiences. Joy has worked on several titles, including Auto Trim & Restyling News, Truck Accessory News, Digital Output Magazine, Retail & Construction News, Miata magazine, Ford Racing, and many more. Her passion, however, lies with health and fitness. She was the associate editor of ACE Certified News while working at the American Council on Exercise, and transitioned that publication from a newsletter to a magazine. She has enjoyed 17 years at IDEA, where she has launched several publications, including the award-winning Inner IDEA Body-Mind Spirit Review, IDEA Pilates Today and IDEA Fit Business Success. Joy is a content creator and media 2.0 advocate who takes pride in discovering the unique information needs of qualified audiences, and she is dedicated to serving those needs while following the highest available standards.