How to workout in water
16 Mar 2017
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Andrew Cate

How to workout in water

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Swimming laps is not the only way to get fit in the pool. Personal trainer Andrew Cate reveals how to boost your health through aqua fitness.

What is aqua fitness?

Also known as aqua aerobics, it’s a variety of exercises performed in water to boost strength, burn fat and improve cardiovascular fitness. 

Often performed as a group class with an instructor, the exercises take place in a pool in waist to neck-high water. 

Why workout in water?

Water offers a unique environment to perform exercises. The buoyancy supports your weight and eases pressure on the joints, yet there is resistance in every direction that you move (unlike gravity). 

This means the muscles work in all movement planes, helping to boost strength while also elevating your heart rate at the same time.

Who can benefit from aqua fitness?

While aqua fitness benefits anyone, it is an ideal activity for those who are:
  • Overweight
  • Starting a new exercise program
  • Pregnant; great for the weight support, and reduced risk of overheating during exercise
  • Recovering from an injury, or who suffer from joint pain
  • Looking for some impact-free variety in their exercise routine, such as runners
  • Not big fans of swimming, but who'd like to exercise in water
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What are the best aqua fitness exercises?

During an aqua fitness class, the instructor will take you through a series of exercises that target all the major muscles groups, and keep your heart rate elevated. 

As part of the fun, you may also use of a variety of aqua toys and equipment designed to work your body in different ways. This can range from floatation devices that change the angle of movement, to aqua dumbbells and webbed gloves to increase the resistance of certain exercises.

But there are a range of aqua fitness exercises you can perform yourself that don't require you to join a class or to use any equipment.

1. Knee tucks

  • Stand in the water with feet shoulder-width apart
  • Squat down slightly, then jump upwards, keeping your back straight
  • You can adjust the difficulty by the water's depth (shallow is harder), the height of your jump, and the rest time between jumps
  • Aim for 5 - 15 in a row until you start to breathe faster

2. Shoulder raises

  • Stand in shoulder-deep water with feet shoulder-width apart and arms straight down by your sides
  • Extend both arms straight out to the sides up to shoulder height, and then return to your body
  • Repeat 10 - 15 times

3. Water walking

  • Standing in water up to your waist, walk fast from one edge of the pool to the other
  • Try alternating between walking forwards, backwards and sideways to target different muscles
  • Propel your arms through the water to increase the speed
  • Repeat 10 - 15 times depending on your fitness, and the width of the pool

4. Water boxing

  • Stand in shoulder-deep water with feet shoulder-width apart, but with one foot slightly forward, and one slightly behind
  • Punch straight out in front of you (below the water), alternating arms, so as one arm moves forward, the other moves back
  • Aim to punch for 20 - 40 seconds

How to get the most out of aqua fitness

  • Try a class to get some professional guidance when starting out. It allows you to learn a variety of exercises to practice in your own time, or socialise with others and add a little variety to your exercise routine
  • While water provides a soothing environment to exercise in (and may even prevent soreness afterwards), it's still wise to start out slowly. Don't push yourself too hard for the first 3-5 workouts
  • Use speed of movement to adjust the intensity of your workout. The faster you move your limbs through the water, the greater the resistance. This will also help to boost your heart rate
  • Find inefficient ways of moving to make the exercises more challenging. For example, spread your fingers wide to increase the resistance, and stretch your arms and legs out wide so it's harder to slice through the water