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Does Water Aerobics Offer the Same Benefits as Regular Aerobics?

Does Water Aerobics Offer the Same Benefits as Regular Aerobics?
A young man and woman doing water aerobics. Photo Credit kzenon/iStock/Getty Images

Water aerobics and its land-based variant both improve your overall fitness. Both types typically feature group workouts led by an instructor. Exercise moves choreographed to music make working out less of a chore. You might shy away from water aerobics if you do not swim, but non-swimmers can enjoy water aerobics in shallow water, or use a flotation belt in deeper water. Instructors usually hold aerobics and water aerobics classes in gymnasiums and swimming pools, respectively.

Aerobic Exercise

Water aerobics, land-based aerobics and aerobic exercise of any kind helps improve cardiovascular health and overall fitness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that when you engage in moderate aerobic activity, your heart rate and breathing rate increase. You use major muscle groups in aerobic exercise and burn calories to provide energy to them. The CDC recommends that all healthy adults get at least 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise five times a week, or a total of 150 minutes.

Resistance Exercise

Resistance training helps you build lean muscle mass, and on land you work against the effects of gravity. You use your own body weight as resistance when you perform squats, lunges or jumps, and you burn fat and build muscle. Aquatic aerobics participants benefit from the increased density and resistance of water, but water negates the pull of gravity. Resistance bands and hand buoys are two pieces of equipment you use to increase the intensity of your workout in the water.

Weight-Bearing Exercise

You strengthen bone mass when you engage in weight-bearing exercise. The National Osteoporosis Foundation notes that weight-bearing exercise in your overall fitness regimen plays a role in maintaining a healthy bone density. Higher-impact aerobics, such as step aerobics, or those that incorporate jumps, function as weight-bearing exercise. Unfortunately, the low-impact environment of the pool means that water aerobics is not a weight-bearing exercise. You might use hand weights in the water, but stepping or hopping in the water does not build bone strength.

Metabolic Requirements

Water aerobics burns as many calories as land-based aerobics, although it might not feel as taxing, according to the American Exercise Association. Two factors work to increase your effort, while minimizing perceived exertion. First, the increased density of water makes you work harder to do the same movements in deep water as on land. Second, the cooling effect of water and the way it supports your joints and body weight lessens the perception of the effort made. The AEA compares water versus land-based exercise and finds that you use more oxygen exercising in water, but that you increase your heart rate more in land-based exercise.

Additional Considerations

You have a reduced risk of injury from water aerobics because of its buoyancy and insulating qualities. In order to increase your balance and stability and to lower the risk of falls once you leave the pool, you should add some weight lifting or other weight-bearing exercise into your regular activities. You might feel more comfortable, workout longer and exercise more frequently in water than in a gym aerobics class if you are overweight, or have arthritis or restricted mobility. Either exercise provides a good workout in a supportive group environment.

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