Looking for a low-impact way to improve your cardiovascular health? Water aerobics will increase your flexibility, muscular strength, and endurance without stressing your joints. Exercising in the water is a bit different from exercising on land. Water has a higher resistance than air. This makes exercising in it more challenging. And you don't need to know how to swim! Many water aerobics routines can be done in chest-deep or shallower water or while holding on to the side of the pool.
There are a wide variety of water exercises to choose from for your aerobic routine. You can walk, jog, and strength train. And don't forget just plain old swimming. Or try something different in the water, like kickboxing or yoga. Buoyancy equipment, ranging from flotation belts to kickboards, offers extra stability. Resistance equipment, like webbed gloves and swim fins, adds intensity to your workout. There are even treadmills, stationary bikes, rowers, and stair steppers that have been designed for use underwater.
There are a few things you should know before doing water aerobics exercises:
- Buoyancy and drag Buoyancy and drag are two important factors that determine the intensity of your water workout. Drag is the resistance you feel when moving through the water. This resistance occurs because water is denser than air.
Buoyancy refers to the upward force from the water that is exerted on your body. Exercising in shallow water lessens the level of buoyancy. This means more stress on your joints and, of course, less of a drag effect. Exercising in water that is too deep – that is, above your neck – increases your body's buoyancy. This limits your ability to move about, therefore decreasing the intensity of your workout. However, deep water aerobics exercises that are just right can be a great workout challenge for even an accomplished athlete.
- Lever length The length of your arms and legs while executing an aquatic exercise will determine the degree of difficulty you experience. The basic principle here is that increasing your lever length increases your effort to overcome the resistance, or drag, of the water. In simple terms, this means that a flexed limb is easier to move in the water than a straightened limb. For example, it's harder to do a straight-legged front kick than a knee raise.
- Lever direction The direction you move your arms and legs will affect the difficulty of the exercise. To maximize the intensity of your water workout, move your arms and legs in opposite directions while exercising. This is because moving in a “scissors” fashion, such as when water walking, creates two opposing drag forces. Conversely, moving your arms and legs in the same direction will decrease the resistance you experience.
Creating Your Own Aqua Aerobics Program
If you're starting from scratch it's important to start off slowly, then build in time and intensity as you progress. A routine can be as simple as walking around, dancing in the water to some fast music or just acting like a kid and jumping around. You can do step-type routines as the water resistance acts as the step. If you don't have your own pool or access to a private pool, many health clubs offer water aerobics classes, which offer both a social element and more formal routines.
Pump it Up. As with any type of aerobic training, aim to work within your target heart rate for at least 20 minutes for maximum cardiovascular benefits. If math isn't your cup of tea, then do a simple talk test while you exercise. If you can sing "The Star Spangled Banner" without missing a beat, then it's safe to say you're not working out as hard as you should be. Your aim should be to be able to carry on a partial conversation.
Fine-Tuning. Many water aerobics exercises can be geared to working on specific muscle groups while keeping your heart pumping. For example, to work on your glutes, you can hold on to the side of the pool and simply kick with each foot, or kick your way around the pool holding on to a kickboard. For instance, to tune your glutes, back, abs, and legs try this move:
- Grab a beach ball and hold it to your chest.
- Spin in the water as if you were an otter or seal.
- Use your whole body.
- Take a breath after each rotation.
- Alternate directions.
- Non-swimmers can go from side to side, keeping their heads above water rather than a full rotation.
Understanding these aforementioned principles and exercise tips will help you get the most out of your water aerobics exercises. As with any workout, know how to provide time to warm up and cool down. And don't forget about dressing for comfort. Things like wearing a full-cut bathing suit, goggles, and water shoes can be helpful in sticking with your water workout. Happy splashing!