I’m not an “exercise person.” I could make excuses about my bad knee, or my asthma, but really, I’m just lazy. The thought of running on a treadmill or lifting weights only makes me want to snuggle further into my couch and binge-watch another season of American Dad.
However, when my company offered up a free gym membership, I was tempted — tempted to use their pool, that is. I hustled on over to the gym one day after work, only to find the pool closed off for a water aerobics class. I watched the participants laughing as they worked out, and the thought came to me, “That looks easy enough. I could do that.”
I found myself in the pool the same time the next week, ready to rock and roll. It didn’t take long before I realized that I was in over my head.
What to Wear
My first mistake was wearing a run-of-the-mill swimsuit — you know, something you’d wear to the beach or while boating. I found myself constantly pulling my bottoms up, my top down, or desperately trying to keep my breasts from escaping their confines. I looked around the pool to see everyone else in one-piece suits, many with racerbacks for added support.
My second mistake was going barefoot. There’s a lot of movement involved in water aerobics, and not only did I slip on the lane lines multiple times, I also shredded the soles of my feet on the pool bottom. Again, I looked around. The veterans all were wearing pool shoes.
If you’re thinking of joining a water aerobics class, I highly recommend one-piece suits, free of any skirts or flaps — they’ll only get in your way. Gentlemen should wear tight-fitting bottoms. If you’re prone to getting chilly in the pool, consider a wetsuit — but make sure it has a front zipper, so you can get out of it on your own. Finally, give your tootsies a break and wear pool shoes. I cannot stress this enough!
What to Expect
I really did expect water aerobics to be easy. I mean, everyone was listening to the Beach Boys and laughing while they “worked out.” How hard could it be?
As I mentioned before, there’s a lot of movement in water aerobics — sustained, unrelentless, rapid-fire movement. The whole point of aerobics is keeping up your heart rate, and that doesn’t change just because you’re in a pool. We were twisting, jumping, punching, high-kicking, weightlifting and even doing crunches.
My first few weeks were rough. Learning the moves, struggling to keep up, and, of course, trying not to drown myself in the process. My instructor and fellow participants often took pity on me and stopped to show me how to do each move properly. As time went by, I became much better at it, and really began enjoying myself.
Why It’s Great
I’m a bit of a quitter, which is why I was surprised at my sudden drive when it came to water aerobics. It was hard, and I always left the pool aching and exhausted — but I stuck to it. Why? Because it was worth it.
Water aerobics isn’t just good exercise, it’s body-friendly exercise. For instance:
- Regular aquatic aerobic exercise leads to significant gains in strength, flexibility and agility.
- Water aerobics effectively works out nearly every muscle and joint in your body. As your body moves, the water constantly resists your movements. As a result, your muscles have to work harder to push against the resistance.
- Because water supports ninety percent of your body weight, water aerobics doesn’t impact your joints as harshly as “land exercise.” This is particularly helpful for anyone with joint conditions such as arthritis, fibromyalgia or lupus.
- Water-based exercises actually relieve the pressure placed on joints from arthritis.
- Water aerobics are heart healthy! The hydrostatic pressure of water pushes equally on all body surfaces, helping the heart circulate blood. This assistance means you’ll have a lower heart rate and blood pressure during water aerobics than you would have had on land.
- Since your body weight doesn’t pull you down the same way a regular workout would, you can exercise longer in water than on land.
- The combination of strength and cardio workouts mixed with water resistance in aquatic exercise means your body is getting a full workout. You can burn between 400 to 500 calories in an hour of water aerobics.
As you can see, water aerobics comes with a host of benefits! Before you jump in the pool, make sure to eat a small combination of protein and a complex carbohydrate. If you exercise on an empty stomach, you’ll have less energy in the pool and feel weak after class. Also, bring a water bottle along. Even though the water keeps you from feeling hot and sweaty, you still need to stay hydrated.
Water aerobics was a game-changer for me. Although I still don’t care for traditional exercise, I’m always up for a good water-based workout. If you’re not fond of treadmills and elipticals, give water aerobics a try. You just might surprise yourself!