Friday, October 8, 2010

Daily Shape - Not just for retired folk

There seems to be a stigma about aqua aerobics that it's intended for old arthritic people in retirement communities.  My gym offers "aquafit" classes 6 times a week and last year, on a whim, my co-worker and I gave it a shot.  It has to be said that our first impression was not great, but that had more to do with the instructor showing the same enthusiasm for the class as one might expect upon discovering a fungal infection.  Fast forward many months and I figured out which classes that particular girl teaches, and decided to try a class with the other instructor.  Let me tell you, it's fantastic!

You may remember me saying that I like I swim.  Swimming is my fitness sanctuary.  Listening to my own breathing and the movement of each stroke, I get the same feeling of calm and focus that others describe when jogging or doing yoga (neither of which are fun to me).  So, it figures that I'd be comfortable splashing about in the water.  I was also concerned at first that aqua aerobics wouldn't be enough of a challenge, but what I've discovered is that it's up to YOU individually to decide what level of difficulty you want from the class.  The instructor will guide you, but it's up to you to jog faster, jump higher, push harder...  We generally do a lot of exercises up and down the length of the pool, such as jogging, as well as using plastic weights for resistance training.  Pretty much everything uses your core muscles to stabilize against the movement of the water, and even if you are pretty fit - if you jump up and down the length of a 25yd pool repeatedly you're going to feel like you're body is getting a good workout!

Some interesting facts about aqua aerobics:
- This type of exercise is good for both muscle tone, as well as a cardiovascular workout.
- Being in the water reduces stress on the body, but adds resistance.  It offers resistance from all sides (as opposed to on-land activity where there is higher impact and omni-directional resistance).  This is great for people with weaker joints or injuries that need rehabilitation.    For example, I get horrible shin splits when trying to run on land, but I'm happy to jog up and down the pool repeatedly!
- As the water is low-impact and supports a significant amount of your body weight, it's great for pregnant women.  My instructor actually said that there was a lady who came to class every week until about 10 days before she gave birth!
- You do not have to be a swimmer to enjoy the class as most of the movements are done in water shallow enough to allow you to stand.  The pool at my gym is 4ft at the deep end.
- It is estimated that in a 45-60 minute class, you can burn anywhere from 300-600 calories.  That's not bad if you ask me.

One of my favorite things about the class is that I can get in that pool and feel my body working hard, but walk away from the class completely energized.  The muscle recovery seems pretty quick, which may also have something to do with the massaging motion of the water as you're working out.  All I know is that I went into class last night with a stiff back/shoulders and came out feeling great.  I'm hoping I can stick with the Thursday class because I've really been enjoying it.  I'd love to know if anybody else has given it a try!

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