If military-style fitness boot camps sap all your energy, walking seems mundane and exercise generally leaves you with no energy, especially in the hot weather, water aerobics may be the perfect fitness solution for you.
An ideal way to beat the heat, work out vigorously and still not feel dehydrated, water or hydro aerobics classes are becoming popular among fitness enthusiasts. Water aerobics build cardio, strength and resistance, while being easy on the joints and in a cool and relaxing atmosphere.
“Many people in my class cannot exercise on the floor at all because of joint pain,” says Shahina Bilal, who has been teaching aqua-aerobics for the last three years. “Since exercising in water is low-impact, people with joint problems can easily do them and still get the satisfaction and benefit of working out. Some also join the class because they enjoy being in water and just have a good time.”
Bilal worked at a private club as a water aerobics instructor for two years and now conducts private lessons for people at their homes where a pool is available.
Since water flows and constantly changes as a natural form, it can be unpredictable in its movements. As it flows in multiple directions, the resistance in the pool can range from four to 42 times greater than air, ensuring that the muscles get a thorough workout.
People do water aerobics for a variety of reasons, she says. “One of my students [Bilkis Qureshi] has sciatica which limits her ability to exercise. She was advised by her doctor in the US to take up water aerobics which she started there. She is continuing with her water routine while she is in Karachi.”
“I can’t do any exercise that puts pressure on my nerves, but in the water, I feel light and can move freely. While I feel healthier, it also relaxes me from head to toe, tones up the body — particularly legs, and I simply love it!” says Bilkis.
Unlike using traditional weights, which require us to push and pull against the weight plus gravity, water resistance is a more natural which requires the body to strain through the water rather than go against it.
Zoya Baig is expecting and in her second trimester. She has been doing water aerobics for almost a month now. “I am generally a very active person, but in the hot and humid weather and being pregnant, I was just not up to walking, jogging or working out,” she says. “I don’t enjoy the artificial environment at gyms, so water aerobics has been a godsend for me. No more lower-back pain and taut shoulders for me. I also do yoga and the combination makes me feel relaxed.”
As the body is subject to water resistance during water aerobic exercises — since it requires movement in all directions while adjusting itself to the push and pull of water — joints naturally increase their range of motion thereby increasing flexibility of joints.
“You may not be able to do some positions on the ground because of weak knees or a back condition but you can actually burn calories easily in water,” claims Fehmida Maskatiya who started hydro aerobics classes at her house three months ago. “It is a great therapy for arthritis and various aches and pains,” she adds.
Land workout can tax the joints and ligaments. In water aerobics, the buoyancy of the water helps take off some of the impact that we tend to place on our body. Since gravity does not affect our body in water, the impact our joints take is not equal to the impact on land. This is particularly important for those with joint conditions such as arthritis.
Farah* started water aerobics three months ago and although she claims to have no more aches and pains, and feels energised, she hasn’t lost much weight. “I feel all toned up after a few one-hour sessions in the pool and plan to continue with water aerobics. The older you get, the longer it takes to shed off weight but I feel more confident now about myself,” she says.
Activity in water not only reduces blood pressure by alleviating pain, stress and anxiety, it cools the body and you can lose weight by burning calories while splashing about in water.
Saniya* feels that the sheer pleasure and confidence of working out in water is unique. “People who could never imagine entering a pool or who may have never had access to one can enter it without fear, after just stepping into it for exercise,” she says. “It is a joy to see such people become water-friendly and emerge triumphant after only one session in the pool. It is great therapy for all ages, perfect for all seasons, whether summer or winter, as most pools can be heated. There is a young girl with a vertebrae issue who is not allowed to do any kind of exercise by the doctors but water workouts are allowed.”
Even if you are not specifically trying to improve your cardiovascular system, using free weights in water for some weight loss, easing you sacroiliac joint or lumbar fusion condition, you should still get your swimsuit out for some recreation and physical activity in water. You will love being a water baby.
Names changed to protect the privacy of the individuals
Originally published in Dawn, EOS, July 8th, 2018