Following on from the post I put up on exercise, today I’m going to write about one of my favourite ways to exercise, but one I’ve unfortunately not been able to do for a while, Aqua Aerobics!
I’m going to run a series of posts about different exercises & fitness activities I’ve tried to encourage you to try something new & find a type of exercise you will truly love instead of dread! I believe working out & getting your body moving & sweating is one of the most energizing & addictive things you can do & once you find what works for you there’ll be no going back!
I originally posted a version of this in 2015 when I was obsessed with Aqua, despite it’s geriatric image! Initially I too in all honesty shared the opinion that Aqua classes would be full of elderly women doing dainty & sedate exercises. I went along thinking I’d have a relaxing exercise class, something I could do with my mother to encourage her to take up more exercise, but I discovered it was so much more & now I’m a complete convert!
Aqua’s great for all ages & abilities, but don’t be fooled it’s by no means easy, & my first experience was humbling as the women literally ran circles around me (a common resistance exercise)! So if you think aqua aerobics isn’t for you I say give it a try, you may be pleasantly surprised & it would be a tragedy if you denied yourself the experience because of its unfair image.
Aqua Aerobics, as you may have guessed it, is basically an aerobics class in water, but with slightly different exercises. Classes normally last about 1 hour & the one I used to go to at my local gym tried to incorporate a whole body workout rather than focusing on specific muscle groups each week. All instructors vary though so what you get in one class could be really different to another, I had three different instructors at that gym over a year & each had their own very distinctive style. My favorite by far was the instructor who instead of keeping a steady & sedate pace, as one of the others did, focused on dynamic, energetic tabata style workouts which suited me perfectly. If you step up the pace, as that instructor did, you can get a really good workout (although I should note I like to do aqua for a less strenuous workout between harder days), but the brilliant thing about Aqua is that it accommodates all levels of fitness, you simply go at your own pace &, as long as you are doing what feels like a good pace for you, you’ll be getting a good workout. So it’s great for those new to exercise, you don’t have to worry about keeping up & you can increase your tempo as you get fitter, but if your fitness level is high you’ll definitely need a class with a fast pace!
An average class includes a warm up, to get your heart rate up, stretches & a series of exercises, which take different forms depending on the style of the instructor, & often include star jumps, boxing moves, squats etc.. They also sometimes use equipment such as foam dumbbells to work your arms harder, & underwater they take on a surprising amount of resistance!
If you like your exercise classes sociable then it could be perfect for you as some teachers do team exercises & can really break the ice between you & your classmates. It can also be a lot of fun, but the downside is if you do get paired with someone of a lower fitness level you can lack a challenge.
Aqua’s image, as I mentioned, is very much one of an exercise class for women of a certain age & in my opinion this seems unfair, as although it’s predominantly taken by older women (I did stand out in my class as at least half the age of every one else!) it’s a great workout for everyone.
There are good reasons why it’s gained this image, but it should encourage others to join rather than putting them off. It’s really low impact on your joints as the exercises don’t cause the same strain underwater as on solid ground, making it perfect for older people who’s joints aren’t what they used to be, but it also makes it fantastic for those with injuries or during pregnancy, as you can maintain a level of fitness without causing more damage. But it still needs to be treated with caution as it can be strenuous, so tell the instructor if you have any issues & they’ll give you alternatives if anything’s unsuitable for you. I personally have to be very careful with my back & knee joints, due to Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, so I do some of the moves a bit slower to maintain a good position, & as you can generally stretch further underwater (which is brilliant if you want to loosen your muscles and ligaments) I have to be extra careful. However no matter what your issues are as long as you are aware of your body, listen & watch the teacher carefully you should be fine, if not talk to the instructor afterwards & they should be able to help you.
There are various other unexpected benefits (well to me anyway), it can be very therapeutic as water has a calming & relaxing effect upon the body & mind, (even when exercising in it!) & if you thought you were balanced before you take a class you may shocked! I had been doing ballet exercises for roughly three years before I started, but balancing underwater is a whole different ballpark, you’re being pushed in all directions by the moving water & for the first few classes it’s a challenge just staying still enough to do the exercises! As a consequence my core became stronger and my ankles, which have always been really weak, strengthened up enough to make running a possibility for me. This is a benefit I never thought I’d experience in a ‘sedate’ Aqua class, & the Aqua experience was so trans-formative that when I first wrote this I couldn’t imagine not doing some form of aqua exercise in my training to keep up the positive effects.
Aqua is something I miss all the time, but there aren’t any classes near where I live at times I can attend, & as a result my ankles are definitely weaker, but if I could I’d take it up again I would in a heartbeat! If you are based in the UK check out Poolfinder to find your nearest aqua aerobics class.
So go for it, don your favourite swimsuit & take the plunge, whether you end up loving it or loathing it, you’ll never regret giving it a go.
Let me know how you get on, I’d love to hear your experiences.
(Image courtesy of: https://unsplash.com/@cdominguez_)