Many health professionals stress the importance of staying active as you get older. Staying fit can improve muscle tone and flexibility, reduce joint pain, and increase your lifespan. Aging doesn’t equal weakness — in fact, one study found that seniors who exercise regularly have the muscle tone and heart health of people 30 years younger.
The best part about exercise is that it’s never too late to start working out. If you’ve had trouble maintaining a workout routine in the past, it doesn’t mean you’re doomed to remain inactive forever. You can pick up a new athletic hobby at any time, and it will begin improving your health immediately.
However, your activities need to be tailored to your comfort level. Joint pain, stiffness, and fatigue can make it difficult to muster enthusiasm for exercise. This is why water aerobics has become a popular alternative to traditional workouts.
What is water aerobics?
Water aerobics is a low-impact workout that involves doing exercises in chest-deep water.
Water provides resistance and buoyancy; it’s harder to move while your body is submerged, but the water also reduces stress on your joints. This means you can build muscle and improve your cardiovascular health without the pain and damage caused by high-impact exercise.
When you work out on the ground, every hop, step, and jump can shock your joints and cause pain. When you perform the same exercises in a pool, the buoyancy of the water cushions your body and reduces pressure.
Resistance is the other key benefit of water aerobics. Your muscles have to work harder to push through the water, which allows you to build muscle tone in a more efficient, comfortable way.
The benefits of water aerobics
Anyone can enjoy water aerobics, but seniors tend to gravitate towards it the most. Here are some of the key benefits of water aerobics, and why this workout is so popular among older people.
It’s a low impact workout.
As mentioned above, working out can be difficult when you’re struggling from joint pain. Unlike other low-impact workouts, water aerobics takes many pointers from high-impact, high-energy routines. However, the water takes the stress off your joints and puts it on your muscles instead.
Short sessions are highly effective.
An hour of swimming burns almost as many calories as running, and water aerobics steps up the exercises to burn even more. The average burn during a water aerobics class can average at about 400-500 calories per hour — quite the effective workout!
It’s fun and comfortable.
As mentioned above, the buoyancy of the water keeps you from feeling your weight as you jog, jump, and exercise. Pool activities allow you to exercise without getting hot or sticky during the summer months, and heated pools can ease aches and pains in the winter. Joining a guided class also allows you to exercise with others, make friends, and engage in a group activity.
Water aerobics improves your health.
Weight loss, muscle tone, and relaxation are all great benefits, but water aerobics does more than that. Spending time in the water has a number of relaxing benefits as well. Studies show that having a brief splash improves your sleep, boosts your mood, and reduces stress.
Water Aerobics Exercises
If you want to be prepared for your water aerobics class or want to work out on your own, here’s a brief look into the most popular exercises.
This exercise involves stretching the legs, improving your balance, and strengthening your core. While standing in the pool, lift your leg out to the side and back down. Repeat this exercise until you start to feel the burn, and then begin working on your other leg. You can switch back and forth as many times as you like, but try not to overexert yourself!
If you’re having trouble staying balanced, you can hold onto the edge of the pool or hold a boogie board to stay upright.
This is the same concept as leg lifts, only you’re working out your arms. Find the highest water you’re comfortable with, and hold your arms by your sides. Then, slowly lift them until they’re level with the water, and then push them back down. This can be done while holding foam water-weights to increase resistance.
This tutorial includes a number of water aerobics exercises, including a form of arm lifts.
Flutter kicking is fun, easy, and combines low-impact exercise with high-energy cardio. If you have a kickboard, you can propel yourself across the pool by holding onto the board and flutter kicking your legs. If you don’t have a kickboard, don’t worry. You can do a stationary version of the exercise by holding the side of the pool.
This exercise gets the blood pumping pretty quickly, so make sure to take breaks and pace yourself. You can go as slowly or as quickly as you like.
This is a common exercise seen during water aerobics classes. It can be a bit intense, so take it slow if you’re easily fatigued or overwhelmed. While doing jumping jacks outside of the water can jostle your joints, the water allows you to perform a slower, gentler version of the exercise. Try to keep up with the trainer, or perform 8-10 repetitions at your own pace.
We’ve left the best for last, here. Aqua jogging is a simple, effective, and gentle exercise that gets your heart pumping and burns calories fast. All you need to do is jog from one end of the pool to the other. You’re cushioned by the water on all sides, so there’s no risk of falling or jolting your joints.
If actual jogging is a little too intense, walking laps around the pool is a great alternative. It’s important to remember that the water provides resistance, so you’re getting more of a workout than you think. There’s no shame in going at your own pace and enjoying the exercise. Just make sure to push yourself when you’re able.
Here is a water walking tutorial that focuses on improving balance and preventing falls — both inside and outside the pool.
Knowing your limits is important, especially when exercising. Many people take “exercise is pain” a little too literally, and end up overexerting themselves. A bit of tired soreness is good, but lightheadedness, fatigue, and pain are signs that you’re pushing too hard. Make sure to pace yourself, and never work out alone.
Even if you aren’t interested in joining a group, you should still have someone present the entire time you’re in the pool. Drowning is a real possibility, even in shallow water. Whenever you’re in the pool, there should be an able-bodied person present to help if things go awry. However, we recommend joining a class — water aerobics is more fun with friends!