Water aerobics is a type of exercise you do exclusively in the water—the word aerobic means “to use oxygen.” Since you involve deep breathing and muscle building simultaneously, it is a great way to lose weight. Due to water’s added buoyancy, it can be an excellent alternative for those struggling with land-based workouts because of their weight.
Water aerobics can help with weight loss by combining water resistance with continuous body movement. Since water buoyancy can help overcome the effects of gravity, overweight individuals have the potential to exercise longer. Aerobic exercise done for longer durations is optimal for fat burning.
In the following sections, we’ll discuss the reasons why so many people turn to water aerobics as their primary source of exercise. Following that, there will be additional tips included regarding where and how to get started. We’ll wrap it up by running through some examples of beginner exercises, so you know what to expect when attending your first class.
Weight Loss Benefits of Water Aerobics
Below are several reasons why you should at least consider taking a few introductory water aerobics classes for the purpose of losing weight.
Water Helps to Ease Customary Workout Burdens
If you are struggling with your weight loss journey, this could be the most important reason to choose water aerobics over land-based exercise programs. The gravity pressing down on you causes tremendous stress on your body. The natural buoyancy of the water will help take some of the weight off you and lift you, so there is less impact while you are moving around and performing the exercises (source).
There are other ways to burn fat, of course. However, running, circuit training, and step aerobics are all high impact activities. They can cause foot, ankle, and knee problems, especially for those who are overweight.
The water has another benefit: the cooling effect. You are less likely to worry about overheating in the water. So, there is less chance of getting a heat stroke during the summer months.
Joint inflammation is also a common problem for heavier exercisers (source). The cool water can keep the joints from becoming too hot during exercise, helping to avoid potential injury.
Finally, many people worry about the embarrassment of sweating too much when they go to the gym. You don’t have to worry about that with water aerobics. Everyone gets wet anyway, so it doesn’t matter whether it comes from the water or sweating too much.
With all these benefits that the water has to offer, you’re more likely to be consistent with your workout program, burn additional calories, and lose weight at an accelerated pace.
You Can Exercise Longer and More Frequently
Fat burning is not a one-and-done deal. Aerobic exercise is linear and repetitive (source). You have to be consistent over time to see results.
One grueling, 15-minute workout per week won’t cut it. It takes at least 30-60 minutes, three times per week of moderate exercise to even begin to see results.
To be consistent means you have to stay injury-free. Exercising in water instead of on hard surfaces gives you a better chance of avoiding injuries, such as:
- toe breaks
- foot fractures
- sprained ankles
- shin splints
- knee injuries
- hip injuries
- lower back strain
By exercising longer than you usually would, you can get into the aerobic zone and stay there for more extended periods (source). Not only will you burn more calories, but you also will be able to burn more fat around the midsection and those other stubborn, resistant areas of the body.
Water Provides Steady, Natural Resistance
The big, clunky machines at the gym are often hard to set up. You don’t always know what weight to use most of the time. And the seat is almost always in the wrong position.
With water aerobics, you don’t have to worry about any of that. The resistance in the water depends on how fast you move. It is a fluid resistance medium that won’t jerk back and forth as a machine will (source).
Not only is this type of resistance more convenient, but it also helps prevent injuries. There are no added weights to install, so there is nothing to drop on your toe. You don’t have to do any math to figure out what percentage to go up safely. Your body does all the calculating for you!
That is why doctors and physical therapists are quick to recommend water aerobics to their patients. They know that there is a greater chance of injury in a traditional health club setting than in a water aerobics class. It goes without saying, but injuries are far and away the biggest potential threat to the success of your weight loss journey.
Higher Potential for Calorie Burning
The rate at which you burn through calories depends on three factors (source):
- your weight
- the intensity of the exercise
- workout duration
When in a gym performing sets and repetitions of exercises while sitting or lying down, the average person can expect to burn 150 calories in 30 minutes, maybe. That same 30 minutes in a water aerobics class could net you up to 300 to 400 calories burned!
There are two fundamental reasons for this:
- In an aerobics class, you don’t get to sit down and take a break. You are always moving, which gives you the best chance to burn more calories.
- Your body works harder for the whole workout because you have to overcome the resistance of the water.
Better Balance While Exercising
If you usually have balance problems while exercising, water aerobics is for you. The water acts as a spotter while you perform activities similar to a step aerobics class. The difference here is that you don’t have to worry about falling and hurting yourself.
For this reason, you can up your workout intensity and burn through that stubborn body fat!
For Every Fitness Level
Professional athletes often use water exercises to rehabilitate or add another dimension to their training protocol. Beginners may use it as a stepping stone to more vigorous, high impact workouts. Whatever your starting point, water aerobics can be a bridge to getting you back to a higher overall fitness level.
Supervised by Experts in the Field
A water aerobics instructor has to go through specialized training to become certified (source). Often, especially in larger facilities like the YMCA, the instructors also have to be certified lifeguards. Even if this is not the case, all public pools have lifeguards.
It’s good to know that you have several people around who are committed to your safety and the safety of those around you. You don’t typically get that in most group exercise classes.
Plus, these instructors know exactly how to motivate their clients to achieve maximum calorie burning. This support can make a tremendous difference in how quickly you’ll shed pounds.
Another Way to Socialize
After a few classes, you become part of the group. The camaraderie is outstanding, and the people are usually very friendly. It’s like having a family away from home.
This group backing will establish a sense of workout accountability, which ultimately translates into better weight loss results.
It’s Super Fun
Let’s face it, exercise can be a little boring. But water aerobics classes are designed to take the drudgery out of working out and staying fit. When you have like-minded people around you who want to have a good time staying active and healthy, you can’t help but become a little more motivated.
Can You Achieve the Same Weight Loss Results with a Private Pool?
Having access to a private pool certainly has its advantages. You aren’t confined to any specific schedule. You also have the freedom to invite whoever you want to join you in your workouts.
It is not advisable to do aquatic workouts alone for safety reasons. You could lose your footing and hit your head on the side of the pool wall. Plus, it could be hours before help arrives if you experience a sudden medical emergency.
With that being said, so long as you stay consistent and keep the intensity up, noticeable weight loss results should still be attainable.
How to Start Losing Weight with Water Aerobics
Keep in mind that there is a lot of variety within the world of water exercise. New classes are always being offered, sometimes as often as every week. It can be overwhelming, but don’t let that stop you. Here are some ideas to help move you in the right direction.
Know Your Baseline of Health
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Are you healthy enough to exercise?
- Are you healthy enough to lower yourself into the pool?
- Will you be able to get out of the pool without assistance?
- Are you certain the pool chemicals won’t cause any adverse reactions or interfere with medications you are taking?
If any of the answers to these questions are “no,” or you have any doubts, you should consult your doctor before starting. It’s not a bad idea anyway, especially if you know you are at risk for vertigo, heart attack, or stroke.
Just because water aerobics is safe for most of the population, that doesn’t mean you automatically have the green light. It’s better to use an abundance of caution now rather than waiting until an emergency before confronting your limitations.
Find a Class
The best place to start is at your local aquatics center or your local YMCA. The larger facilities usually have at least one beginner’s class. The staff will let you know what’s available and when.
Here is a list of the most popular aquatics classes:
- Beginner’s Class – It takes you from your starting point and teaches you the exercises that you don’t already know. Most of the time, instructors conduct classes in shallow pools.
- Zumba – This offering incorporates the same dance movements as the land-based version without all the high impact, knee-twisting damage to your muscles, tendons, and cartilage.
- Water Yoga and Tai Chi – These two classes are a must if you’re under a lot of daily stress. Performing these exercises in water is even more relaxing than on land.
- Water Kickboxing – If you want to lose weight fast, this is a great way to do it. Kickboxing burns about the same amount of calories as running at a moderate pace.
- Aqua Spinning – Who would have thought that they could ever put a bunch of spinning bikes underwater? But that’s what happened when they invented aqua-spinning. The idea is to have water resistance work along with the bike’s tension selector. Pretty clever.
Find a Qualified Instructor
Make sure to talk to the instructors. They will give you the details of their class and let you know what they expect of you. They will also make you aware of any rules or regulations concerning the pool you need to follow.
It’s okay to ask for credentials. You want to make sure the person who is leading the class is certified in aquatic exercise. The best industry certification is through the Aquatic Exercise Association (source).
Shallow Water vs. Deep Water: Which Yields Better Weight Loss Results?
Most beginner’s classes are in about three to five feet of water. The deepwater classes typically are held in depths of over six feet. If you are a beginner or have health issues, it is best to start with a shallow water class. Deep water classes are typically for advanced exercisers.
Since deep water classes demand a higher level of workout intensity, they’re the superior option when it comes to weight loss.
Any Special Equipment that Supports Weight Loss?
The health club or facility usually provides most of the equipment used for water aerobics classes. The only exception is if you need a special flotation device or other pieces of equipment used for deepwater programs, which they don’t typically provide during the class.
Most public pools have a non-slip surface that can tear up the bottom of your feet. It is best to wear a quality pair of water shoes like this VIFUUR Water Sports Shoes during your classes. They can make aquatic exercises much more comfortable to perform, which ultimately translates into a more productive calorie-burning workout.
Examples of Water Aerobics Exercises that Support Weight Loss
Below, you’ll find several of the most effective water aerobics exercises for weight loss. These exercises require no special equipment—just yourself and about three to five feet of water. It’s best to keep everything slow until you get used to the movements.
Walking in Place
Walking or jogging in place is a standard warmup exercise for beginning through advanced classes. Lift the heels and place them down as in walking in place. Don’t stay on your toes, but let the feet fall flat as you walk.
As you get more comfortable with the movement, try lifting the knees higher and faster as with running in place. Move your arms back and forth, also. Make sure not to hold your breath as you exercise. Do this for one to three minutes.
Pretend like you have a hula-hoop around your waist. Circle around slowly with your hips in one direction five times. Now, do it the other direction five times. Repeat. Try to make bigger circles as you progress.
Standing in water up to your shoulders, cup your hands in front of you as if you were cradling a baby. Slowly bring your arms straight out to your sides, even with your shoulders, and immediately return to the starting position.
Do 10-12 repetitions, paying close attention to how the water feels against your arms and shoulders as it resists the movement.
Standing Leg Extension
Hold on to the side of the wall in about three to four feet of water. Lift one foot 12 inches. Pretend like you’re going to kick a soccer ball and slowly extend the leg. Bring it back to the starting point for one repetition.
Do 10-12 repetitions, then switch legs. Make sure to keep an upright posture and avoid leaning back during the exercise.
This move is perfect for strengthening the knee and the front of the thigh. It also works the hamstring muscles on the way back to the starting point.
Elbow to Knee
This exercise is difficult to get the form down. But once you do, it is a fantastic core blaster. Your abdominal muscles will most certainly feel it! Begin as you did for the leg extension, holding onto the side of the wall. Place your free hand behind the back of your head with your elbow pointing out to the side.
Slowly lift the knee closest to the wall as high as possible while bringing the opposite elbow toward the raised knee. You do not have to touch the elbow and knee together for this exercise to be effective.
What you are trying to accomplish here is a standing, twisting crunch. It is the same movement you might see someone do on the floor of a gym or health club. Try about four or five repetitions before switching to the other side.
Do not attempt this exercise if you have a delicate back.
Water aerobics is a great way to lose weight if you’ve had trouble in the past with land-based workouts. You can burn a lot of calories without all the pounding on your feet, ankles, and knees associated with exercising on hardwood floors.
But it’s not all about burning calories. It would be best if you tried to have fun while exercising. If you adhere to a regular program, weight loss will naturally follow.
That’s what attracts so many people to water aerobics. They stick with their exercise program because they enjoy doing it. Maybe you will too.