Aqua Aerobics 101: My Wacky Water Workout Adventure


Getting ripped and shredded, with the help of Deep Water Aerobics, is my dream. I’m pumped to take on the challenge. So, I pull myself into my sturdiest Lands’ End Tankini and join the “regulars” at the Snohomish Aquatic Center. I’m new. Very new to Aqua Aerobics, so I’m a bit nervous. Though I’ve been a runner since my early 20s, I’ve never done Aqua Aerobics and I figure: it could be hard. Luckily, the instructor is kind, confident, and ready to help me in any way she can. The other women in the class are equally welcoming and gracious.   I’m starting to feel more at ease.

After a rather ungraceful “plop” into the deep end, I dog paddle around while the instructor (Mary) starts the heart-pumping, dance tempo, popular music I love and know best. Never mind that Alex’s swim team and the high school diving team are watching. They’re an intimidating bunch. However, we have swim skirts—so there! We’re also wearing floatation devices of some sort. Those who have been at this for a while wear water ankle weights. These women are way out of my league. Someday, I hope to join them. Today, I’m using a foam-padded belt that snaps just under the breastbone. (I’m glad my suit doesn’t have an underwire “support system.”)

The trick to doing water aerobics properly is to engage those core muscles to maintain an upright, perpendicular stance throughout the class. Mary told me it’s natural for “first-timers” to move about the pool unintentionally while performing the steps. That happens to me more than once. I also somehow almost get “sucked” under the “rope” that divides the Aqua Aerobics class and the “seniors” on the swim team. That could be a disaster! According to an article by Dr. Mary Wykle and Marty Biondi of the Aquatic Exercise Association, water challenges “propioception” or the “ability to react to simulation with proper movement.” In other words, getting my “water legs” and finding my proper stance in water will be a challenge at first, but I will receive many benefits from water aerobics according to the Aquatic Exercise Association, including:

  • Less impact on the joints and muscles
  • Water resistance for building muscles
  • Cardiovascular benefits
  • The ability to burn 400-500 calories in one hour, and
  • Fun.

However, halfway through the class, I’m still not sure if I’m doing this right. I seem to be following the movements, when I’m not drifting around and trying to dog paddle back into place. The problem is: I’m smiling and having just way too much fun for this class to be a “workout.” The other women seem to be working harder and gaining more benefits. I’m also not that familiar with some of the moves we’re doing. Fortunately, the International Fitness Association has an online list and explanation of all the moves we’ve been doing including the Frog Jump, Scissor Jump, Cross Country Ski, and Jumping Jacks. The Arthritis Association also has an online article titled “Water Walking 101,” which I could practice during the week in order to gain my balance in the water. Finally, choreographer and dancer, Aubree Marchione includes a video on her website in which she demonstrates familiar water aerobics moves on land, while a friend demonstrates in the water. With the help of an underwater camera that is filming the friend’s movements in the water, I can see that I’m interpreting the land movements correctly.

After an hour, I climb out of the pool feeling invigorated and refreshed. Alex and I drive home to have dinner with Nate. I brag that it’s not that difficult to do water aerobics.   However, I speak too soon. An hour after dinner, I can feel my abdominal muscles and arms ache—but in a good way. I really was working hard! Am I on my way to “ripped and shredded?” Maybe not, but I’ll more than settle for “toned” and happy.

Your Turn: What is your favorite form of exercise? Do you or have you ever taken an exercise class? Discuss and share!





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