Advantages of Aqua Aerobics

via Becky Flanigan

water fitness

There is one thing running, soccer and basketball all have in common – impact. All are wonderful forms of exercise, but they involve some kind of impact, and where is that felt the most? In the legs – ankles and knees in particular. What is a great advantage of aqua aerobics? You get a great workout without the impact, giving tired legs a break.

Whether it’s a regular workout or cross training from another sport, aqua aerobics is a fantastic alternative. I have to admit, I was a skeptic at first. I love running, and thought there was no way aqua jogging could give me enough of a workout. Boy, was I wrong! I was amazed at how it kept my heart rate up, and the resistance of the water gave my legs a great workout – all without straining my knees, which is why I tried it in the first place.

Burn the calories. Depending on the intensity of your movements, I’ve read you can expect to burn between 400 and 500 calories per hour – that works for me! You can either work out in deeper water, or do faster movements that use both the upper and lower body to get the greatest calorie burn. When you exercise in the water, you can work against 12 times the resistance of air. When I read that it really gave me an appreciation for the benefit you’re getting from water work.

Aqua jogging. For my big workouts, I go to the community pool where they have lap lanes, and jog in about chest deep water. One of the first things I noticed was that in the water, to get a rhythm going similar to running, I have to really lean into the water, and that’s where the legs get the great work. I usually try to “run” about half a mile, which sure doesn’t sound like much, but with the water resistance – it’s a lot further than you think. At first, I tried to make it like running on land and go for a longer distance, but I had to back off of that. The resources I checked out said to go for time rather than a big distance, which worked out well. The first time I tried it I don’t think I even went half a mile in the pool, and I had been aqua jogging for a long time. So I had to adjust my expectations.

Things to take into account. Since I’m in the water, it doesn’t feel like I’m sweating, and it fools me sometimes. I keep a water bottle at one end of the pool and make sure I stay well hydrated. They suggested one of those waist belt things for aqua aerobics, but with the jogging, I found I didn’t need it, and running in the lanes worked just fine for me. I went barefoot the first time I tried it, and the rough concrete wasn’t friendly to my feet, so I wear old sneakers while I run. Then I read about how aqua jogging could be good for an inured runner, to maintain a fitness level while an injury heals. On injured runner ran 6 days a week for 8 months, and when he returned to the trails, had no loss of fitness level. That really made me feel solid about aqua jogging.

Aqua aerobics – lots of choices. I’m biased toward aqua jogging because I’m a runner, but there are a lot of other aqua aerobics options. They work really well as a primary workout that’s easy on the joints, because of the low impact. I’ve walked by the pool when classes were going on, and they looked like a lot of fun. Everyone was sure laughing and joking a lot while they worked. They have step classes, zumba workouts (and with most of my body underwater might be the only way I’d try all of those sexy zumba moves), kick boxing, tai chi and yoga. In the gym, if you’re in kick boxing class and you really mess up a move, everyone can see it. But with most of you underwater, only you know if you didn’t do that move correctly. It’s a lot of fun that way.

It doesn’t matter if you are a person who wants a good solid workout, or a runner like me looking to cross train and take some strain off of tired legs. There are lots of ways to combine water and aerobic exercise besides swimming. I’m sold on the concept, and have added a regular aqua jogging session to my weekly schedule, to minimize injuries as I build up to run my first half marathon. Wish me luck!

Becky Flanigan is a freelance writer for  She has 3 kids with her wonderful husband – two boys and a girl – and two lovely golden retrievers.  She spends hours at her family swimming pool, watching the kids and dogs splash and play.  She is also a runner diligently training for her first half marathon, and uses aqua jogging as a regular part of her cross training regimen.

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