Water aerobics classes do traditional workouts in waist- to neck-high water in a swimming pool. The resistance of the water makes the workout feel far more intense, while the water cushions you from the impact. Some of the more cutting-edge classes use equipment such as webbed gloves to make the workouts tougher.
Consider the following if you are interested in taking a water aerobics class:
What water aerobics does for you: Water workouts give you moderate fitness. Because water is 12 to 14 times thicker than air and offers resistance in every direction, these classes can give you great muscle tone.
The exhaustion factor: Low. Most people won’t find water aerobics as hard as land-based aerobics. Although water is thicker and therefore harder to pull through than air, water really is a gentler medium. Still, look for an occasional water workout to get you off your feet and to give your muscles a balanced workout.
The coordination factor: Low. You’re forced to move so slowly that you have time to think about each move.
Who digs water aerobics: Anyone who likes the water, has injuries, or is in physical rehab. Water workouts are a terrific cross-training activity for runners, cyclists, and maniac aerobicizers. Water workouts are also great for pregnant women, older people, and people with multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis, or other degenerative diseases because moving through the water is much easier on your body.
What to wear: A swimsuit that doesn’t creep up your rear end. Wear a pair of old sneakers or special aqua-exercise shoes so you don’t scrape your feet on the bottom. Shoes will add more resistance to your workout.
Signs of a sharp instructor: Certification is a definite plus, but water-certification programs are few and far between. A good certification program is offered by the United States Water Fitness Association and by the Aqua Fitness organization.
Safety should be the first priority in any class. A good instructor will identify nonswimmers and insist that they wear life vests at all times during water aerobics. In water running, all class members — even experienced swimmers — wear flotation vests.
Tips for first-timers: Choosing the right class is essential. You don’t want to dive in with a group of 90-year-olds with limited mobility unless, of course, you are one. If you’re trying to come back from an injury, look for classes with names like Rehab for Runners. Check with the doctor treating your injury to make sure you have the okay to take a class.