My first experience with aqua aerobics was an accident. It happened in a spa in Hungary, and I was visiting to relax in the famously mineral-rich waters – not take part in a class. People in the pool started lining up and instructor appeared and though following the others we took part in an enjoyable workout session.
Now, most people in the UK will use a pool – via an organised class – to enjoy water aerobics.
Water-based fitness classes are a hugely popular way to enjoy a social workout, without risking your joints or muscles. Aqua aerobics is a firm favourite with older people. It is also an entertaining way for people returning to fitness after a break.
This guide is a quick introduction to aqua aerobics. It covers the benefits, how the classes work and where to find them – plus some examples of the exercises you will do.
Classes can last up to an hour – with 30-to-45-minute sessions also common. You will stand in a pool, with the water covering your chest, though not over your shoulders. Water aerobics is led by an instructor, who will stay on the side of the pool. You will be guided through different stages.
First, a warm up. This will get each of your major muscle groups ready with gentle movements. Next, you go through the exercises, usually alternating movements that cover the different muscle groups. The last 10 minutes are a warm down. This is important, as suddenly stopping exercise and leaving the pool has the potential to jar those muscles.
The natural buoyancy provided by the water means that the impact (jolting) on your joints is reduced by as much as 90%. At the same time, the water provides resistance. For example, it is harder to sweep your arms in front of you than through the air.
Add these together, and you get the benefits of cardio exercises including calorie burn – without the hard impacts that you’d get my jumping or running. Some classes use floats and (light) weighted items for extra impact.
The first place you can check with is your local pool / leisure centre. Classes are popular at off-peak times – which has the added benefit that the pool is not full of kids. Pricing varies, depending on whether you have a public pool or privately owned one.
You may be closer to a commercial gym or leisure centre. In this instance, you may find that becoming a member allows you to attend as many classes as you wish. Most commercial gyms have booking systems which can be used with a smartphone app or online.
Hotels with pools, local authorities and charity organisations are also providers of aqua aerobics. This varies based on your location, a quick search online should reveal the options.
Every muscle group is covered. Examples include jumps – where you start from a squatting position and jump out of the water (only to return to your squat). There are cross-country style routines, where you work your arms and leg at the same time. With floats, you will be able to kick those legs more vigorously. Arms can be moved at your side and in arcs in front of you. Lifting light plastic weights out of the water gives you tone, as well as providing cardio exercise.
With an experienced instructor, the routines can be varied enough to stay fresh – even for people doing aerobics in the pool multiple times a week. There is no need to worry about your own fitness level to get started. You are under no obligation to do the same number of repetitions as everyone else. Again, your instructors will be able to guide you.
When your arms, legs, chest, core, and glutes have seen the benefit from getting fit – you’ll feel like a new person. At this point, you might want to explore other lower impact ways to stay fit. Examples include elliptical trainers or even a folding exercise bike.
While the experience in a central European spa was a one off for me, aqua aerobics classes are happening every day in pools around the country.
Not only is this a safe low-impact way to work out, but it is also a social activity, with health minded people working out together. You can improve your heart / cardio fitness, shed some pounds, and tone up a surprisingly long list of muscle groups in an entertaining session. Best of all, you won’t jar, knock, or strain any muscles.
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