Water aerobics, or aqua fitness exercise, provides recreation and physical activity for a wide range of individuals. Water aerobics classes usually take place in swimming pools and use music to inspire students and make workouts fun. Instructors might stand up on deck, demonstrate moves or join students in the water. Deep-water aerobics requires the use of special flotation belts to provide stability and buoyancy.
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One positive aspect of water aerobics is that it is easy on the joints, and thus good for people with arthritis or other mobility problems. The low impact on joints also makes water aerobics is a good exercise choice for people who are overweight. The downside of the low-impact nature of water aerobic exercise is that it does little to build strong bones or lean muscle mass efficiently. Weight-bearing exercise builds both bones and muscles. Since water minimizes the effects of gravity and weight, water aerobics is not the best exercise for that purpose. Some water aerobic workouts use weights, and those exercises do help build muscle mass, mostly on the upper body.
The pool water environment has its benefits. Specifically, it keeps bodies cool. Overweight people in particular may suffer from excess heat during exercise and sometimes become too tired to continue. Water acts like a temperature regulator and it dissipates heat effectively. Also, water just feels good most of the time, especially in hot weather.
One disadvantage of exercising in the pool is that some water aerobics enthusiasts develop side effects from the pool water disinfection process. According to Mary Pohlmann, assistant professor of clinical medicine at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine and a member of the United States Masters Swimming sports medicine committee, pool patrons might have allergies to either chlorine or bromine, the two commonly used chemical disinfectants for swimming pools. Typical complaints include red, irritated eyes; dry, itchy skin; and, occasionally, lung irritation.
Water aerobics burns calories. Virtually any type of physical activity benefits participants, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC website lists the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, which recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic exercise for adults. According to the CDC, water aerobics is a moderate type of aerobic exercise, and it benefits the cardiovascular system and overall fitness levels of individuals.
Unfortunately, water aerobics does not burn as many calories as more intense forms of exercise. For example, water aerobics burns 298 calories per hour for a 155-pound adult. The same adult burns 930 calories per hour running at 7.5 miles per hour. Although exercise is an excellent way to improve health and maintain weight loss, it is not a guaranteed way to lose weight. Calorie reduction, combined with a sensible exercise regimen, is the best way to achieve lasting results.