It’s no secret that water-based exercise can be a remarkable way to burn calories without having a serious impact on one’s joints. Among these, water aerobics shines for its ability to help you work on endurance and resistance training while maintaining an upbeat atmosphere. But, be that as it may, people often wonder if knowing how to swim is a prerequisite for this type of physical activity.
It is not necessary to know how to swim to do water aerobics. Most classes are held in the shallower depths of a pool. If classes are held in the deeper end, the employment of a buoyancy belt will keep you safe. Though, knowing how to swim can make a person feel more comfortable in the water.
It can be a relief to know that the inability to swim won’t necessarily hold you back. However, before jumping into water aerobics, knowing what to expect and what challenges may lie ahead can help assuage any fear you may have of attending your first class. Below, we will delve deeper into these topics, along with several proven tips on how to get the most out of water aerobics as a non-swimmer.
Why Non-Swimmers Can Enjoy Water Aerobics Too
Water aerobics does take place in water, so inherently, one may assume that the ability to swim would be necessary. However, these classes are designed much in the way as in a land-based aerobic class. The water is more of an additional training instrument to create resistance than anything else. All you will be doing with the water around you is simply moving through it!
That being said, as a non-swimmer, you may still wonder if you will be able to get enjoyment and activity out of the exercise or if you will just spend the whole time hugging the pool wall. Your safety is key to the instructors, and they take many measures to ensure that every water aerobics class is safe for all its participants.
Water Aerobics Classes are Typically Held in Shallow Water
While some of the more intense classes may transition to the deeper end of the pool, most classes are designed to be performed in the shallow end. The shallow end of a pool is typically between 2 to 4 feet in depth. This low water level allows water aerobics participants to sustain a stable foothold while performing the various group exercises.
You can always opt for deeper water aerobics classes when you’re ready to increase the intensity of your workout. However, the goal of water aerobics stays the same regardless of where you are in the pool; that is, to use the drag of the water on your limbs and movement to create a complete exercise. This means that you can do all of your cardio and strength training in the shallow end, where you’re most comfortable.
So if you thought water aerobics class required you to tread water the whole time and swim endless laps around the pool, you’d be relieved to know this isn’t the case for beginner classes. Both swimmers and non-swimmers alike should be able to manage themselves in these waist-deep waters.
Most of the Exercises are Similar to Land-Based Movements
All of the exercises you find in a water aerobics class are based on land-based aerobic variants. This means if you have been to an aerobic class at your gym, then you’re probably already familiar with the forms and movements you can expect when jumping into the pool. You can find comfort in the familiarity of the exercises.
Examples of common land-based aerobic exercises that are also used in water aerobics include (source):
- jogging in place
- jumping jacks
- squat jumps
The difference between land aerobics versus water aerobics goes beyond the mere involvement of water. The wear and tear of certain land-based exercises can cause strain in one’s joints and affect their ability to perform the exercise. The aquatic medium allows any person with any shape, size, or joint concerns to get the activity they need to stay healthy without impact or restraint.
In fact, certain individuals may find that they can do some aerobic exercises in water that they cannot do on land.
For example, those with chronic joint pain may find jumping jacks too painful on the knee joints on land. In water, however, the natural buoyancy provided by the pool water lessens the pressure on the knee joints significantly, to the point where they may feel almost no pain whatsoever.
Buoyancy Belts Can Further Ensure the Safety of Non-Swimmers
Speaking of buoyancy, you should know that it is another key aspect of the exercises involved in some water aerobics classes. Recall that buoyancy is the upward force experienced by any object immersed in a fluid, either partially or wholly. This force opposes gravity, which helps to keep the weight off your precious joints.
Using buoyancy to your advantage, you can work the legs, arms, back, abs, and more with little to no joint aches. So if you’re worried about dipping underwater because your natural buoyancy may be an issue, don’t worry! Instructors have flotation equipment on hand that can ensure your safety no matter what specific water aerobics activity is done.
Buoyancy belts are just what they sound like: belts that assist in an individual’s buoyancy (or flotation).
Using one of these belts, you can ensure that you always rise to the top of the water. This can be used in shallow water and deep water, helping to alleviate any discomfort so you can get through the class without worry!
Potential Difficulties Non-Swimmers May Have to Face
Now that we have discussed the safety measures and what water aerobics can do for you, it is time to broach the elephant in the room. As a non-swimmer, there will definitely be some hurdles you have to overcome entering any water-based activity. Water aerobics is no exception to this.
Knowing what problems may arise and how to combat them can help you stay focused on class and increase your safety while you are in the water. These problems may seem small when written out. However, reading through these problems and actually living them out are two completely separate things.
For this reason, I’ve addressed the top two issues non-swimmers encounter in water aerobics, along with some possible solutions for these complications. And before you ask, these solutions are not, “Just learn to swim.”
Occasional Feelings of Discomfort in the Water
If you don’t know how to swim, you have to realize that you’re walking into a situation where you’re surrounded by a medium that is difficult to move through. No matter how you prepare, there may be instances where panic can strike, like when your foot placement slips incidentally or when you move toward a deeper area than you would like to be.
This is completely natural, and there’s nothing wrong with this feeling. Even if you are loaded with safety equipment, it doesn’t change the fact that you are in the water. Remember that having the safety equipment and taking those first steps into your water aerobics class is a great achievement in and of itself.
If you find yourself starting to feel uncomfortable at any point, here are some things you can do to help reduce your anxiety:
- Alert the instructor before class to ensure you are near a wall or exit point.
- Have a friend accompany you so that you can naturally lower your stress level.
- Wear your safety equipment and be conscious of the fact that it’s designed to keep you secure.
- Go slow! Remember, this is about you, not everyone around you.
- Breathe deeply and don’t be too hard on yourself.
More detailed information on the topic of overcoming the anxiety of swimming can be found here at How to Get Over the Fear of Swimming: A 9-Step Guide.
Not Being Able to Get Away from the Pool’s Sides
When first joining a class, you may find yourself stuck along the pool sides or near an exit. While everyone else roams around, you can feel disconnected from the group or like you’re outside of the group.
While the wall or ladder is a great way to keep yourself stable and have an exit strategy, you don’t have to resign yourself to living along the side of the pool. It may take time, but slowly beginning to push outside of your boundaries and inching away from the pool’s walls should benefit you in the long run.
With the pool being shallow and the constant supervision of your instructor, you will be perfectly safe moving freely with the class.
How to Make the Best of Water Aerobics as a Non-Swimmer
As a non-swimmer, remember that you do not have to push yourself to suddenly love the water. Take the time you need to adjust to the pool and find where you feel safest. While it is all about getting exercise, you need to feel as comfortable as possible while doing so.
Don’t hesitate to speak with the instructor to get their help. Remember, they are there not just to teach a class but to help you with your personal exercise needs. Instructors deal with these sorts of issues all the time, so you shouldn’t feel any semblance of embarrassment to reach out to them.
Finally, enjoy the class! Water aerobics classes are known for being a ton of fun and a great workout. Enjoy the music and have a few laughs with others in the class. This—combined with the exercise movements—will have you forgetting you are in the water in no time!