When my friends invited me to the water aerobics class they take at their community pool, I didn’t understand what they were so excited about. After all, wasn’t it just exercise? What was the big deal? Yet they enthusiastically described how much they enjoyed the class, and they told me to prepare for a high-energy workout and some great music.
And they weren’t kidding! Once we all jumped in the pool and the fun began. The instructor, Susan, began by warming us up with some easy moves. The water felt wonderful. Then the music got faster and she was showing us some great moves that we were all trying to duplicate in the water. Susan was a very-high intensity instructor and is visibly fit. She was funny and constantly connected with us by talking, laughing, encouraging and exercising poolside. Then, the music got a little bit faster and she jumped into the pool and exercised alongside everyone. The rhythms of the music, the refreshing feeling of the water, the laughter—it was a good day to be in the pool.
After the class, we all felt great, and had a lot of energy. One of my friends finds it difficult to work out in the gym due to a spinal condition as well as her arthritis. In the water, she can move easily without pain. She also said that once she started the classes, she became addicted and tries not to miss any because she finds them so rewarding. Another friend, a two-time cancer survivor was nodding her head as we spoke. “I can do a lot more in the water than I can do outside,” she told me. “The music is great. It’s contagious! You just want to move.” I spoke to another friend who was making some smooth moves in the water near me in the pool. Being in the water allows her to move in a way she can’t do on land due to injuries she sustained in a car accident. She told me that the water aerobics class is the best exercise for her. Not only is it therapeutic, but she has a wonderful time enjoying the music and the water.
I had fun, so I had to find out more about what makes water aerobics so popular. Once I started to do some research, I found that the benefits of water aerobics are many. According to experts, a non-impact water exercise class can improve cardiovascular fitness, strength and flexibility. Because these classes are easy on the joints, pregnant women can participate, though they should still check with their physicians first to get the go-ahead.
A regular water aerobics class is taken in chest-deep water. If you do the arm exercises out of the water, they don’t have the same effect, so if you are tall, make sure you stay in the deeper part of the pool. There are also classes given for those who desire a more intense workout and these are called deep water aerobics. For these exercises, your feet don’t touch the pool floor. If don’t know how to swim but would like to take these more intensive classes, you can certainly use a floatation device or a paddle. Those who know how to swim use kickboards and buoys for added resistance. The resistance and buoyancy of water helps to tone the muscles while protecting the joints.
According to The Aquatic Exercise Association, an average-sized woman can expect to burn 400 to 500 calories per hour when exercising in the water. Additionally, water offers 12 times the resistance of air, which helps to improve muscle strength. Also, did you know that water buoyancy reduces the weight of a person to 90 percent? This buoyancy principle can help those who are overweight or suffer from arthritis, lower back pain, or other injuries to the lower body. Aqua exercise is the most common method used in physical therapy .The easy movements will not cause soreness, and injuries are very rare.
What should you wear to a water aerobics class? Not a tankini, please! I wore one and spent the entire class pulling down the top. I recommend a one piece suit that will give you good coverage, this way you will not experience any embarrassing wardrobe malfunctions. I didn’t wear a swim cap, but many pools require one. I also didn’t wear anything on my feet, but there are aqua shoes that can keep your feet from getting abrasions and from slipping once you leave the pool.
Aquatic exercise classes are available at many health clubs, gyms and recreation centers. You can also do them in your backyard if you have a pool, but make sure you wear plenty of sunscreen if exercising outside.
I plan to find a local health club that has a pool and offers water aerobics classes—join me!