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water aerobics

Water aerobics are exercises in which the basic principles of aerobics are transferred to water. Music sets the speed and rhythm of exercise movements. The heart rate is monitored before, during, and after exercise. The aerobic cycle of warm up, peak, maintain, taper, and cool down is just as important in the water.

What is the information for this topic? 
People have been exercising in water for many years. More and more doctors are recommending it. Until very recently, it was most common as a way to rehabilitate the body after an injury. Water aerobics is often used as therapy. It helps strengthen the body while the person is surrounded by the soothing element of water. The body is reintroduced to movement by repeating slow, deliberate exercises. The exercises help mobilize stiffened joints and tone muscles that have not been used much because of the injury or disease.

Many conditions can helped by water aerobics. These include:
  • rehabilitation after injury
  • arthritis, because limbs that are hard to move on land become much more agile in the water
  • tight muscles, which become more relaxed in water
  • poor heart and lung endurance, which can be improved
  • problem knees, which are pounded by gravity when exercising on land
  • back problems, which enjoy the support of the water and benefit from the power of water resistance
  • pregnancy, as long as the doctor approves
All movements in the water are both supported and resisted by water. Different movements, with different force and speed, are used in the water than on land. Exercising in shallow water gives the person mostly body weight to work with. Moving in chest-to-shoulder-deep water gives almost total water support. This creates a wonderful weightlessness.

In water aerobics, the body is the basic piece of exercise equipment. Various movements can increase water support or water resistance. Both beginners and advanced exercisers benefit from the variety in water aerobics. The effort and speed of movements are adjusted to the each person's needs. Added equipment can enhance water resistance or water support.

Some similarities between water aerobics and land aerobics are:
  • The same degree of muscle firmness can be achieved.
  • The same target heart rate can be reached.
  • The same level of physical fitness can be accomplished.
Some significant differences in water aerobics include:
  • Stress on joints is minimised by water support.
  • Muscles are firmed by water resistance.
  • Endurance is increased and the heart and lungs are strengthened with slow movement.
  • Target heart rates are reached almost effortlessly.
  • Those who are obese, pregnant, or have medical problems can exercise easily.
  • Age is no barrier because water support enables effortless movements.
How safe is water aerobics?
  • As with all physical fitness programs, people should get a doctor's approval before starting. This is in the person's own best interest. Not all programs are safe for all people at all times. Just because a program is in water doesn't guarantee it's safe.
  • The impact of jumping up and down is lessened by water support. So there is much less stress on joints like the ankles and feet. These same movements are also much easier on the back, because water support lessens the impact.
  • People with arthritis, a bad back, or other problems find it easier to exercise in water than on land. But not all movements are safe while exercising in water. It is important to use common sense. A doctor can advise whether leg lifts and body twisting should be done by someone with back problems.
  • Water gives even the heaviest person support, if the water covers at least 75 percent of the body.
  • For pregnant women, a new target heart rate must be evaluated by the doctor. The speed of exercises may have to be reduced. The heart rate may have to be kept lower than usual to protect the baby. But movements don't have to be restricted, as long as the woman feels comfortable, and the doctor approves.
  • Water and air temperature and humidity play an important part in water aerobics. Water or air temperatures above 29 degrees Celsius put a stress on the cardiovascular system. A slower pace is then recommended. Lower water and air temperatures allow for faster movements for a longer period of time. High humidity stresses the entire body, and raises body temperature and heart rate.
  • Using exercise equipment in water can be a great aid to physical fitness. But how the body reacts to movements with such tools should be understood before they are used. A safe water aerobics program includes instruction in water exercise skills.
Author: Dr. Karen Wolfe, MBBS, MA
Reviewer: eknowhow Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr John Hearne
Last Updated: 16/10/2004
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

This website and article is not a substitute for independent professional advice. Nothing contained in this website is intended to be used as medical advice and it is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes or as a substitute for your own health professional's advice.  All Health and any associated parties do not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information.


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