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Love fitness but tired of the same old workout regime? With its fun movements and holistic approach to exercise, aqua aerobics is especially great for arthritics and people suffering from osteoporosis who otherwise cannot work out rigorously.
As I write and share this, I can still feel the exhilarating ‘high’ after a 45-minute workout of aqua aerobics.
Aqua aerobics or water aerobics is an exercise form where aerobic exercises are performed vertically in a shallow swimming pool. It is not as strenuous as aerobic exercises on land but does get the heart pumping, strengthens various muscle groups and is recommended for conditions like arthritis, osteoporosis and obesity. Exercises are done standing on the floor of the pool, sometimes with fun flotation aids.
Let me confess that I am not the type of person who likes exercise. In fact, I absolutely hate exercise, although I do try to motivate myself to do some mild activity on and off. In fact this morning, I was finding excuses to cancel my exercise class and just lounge in front of the television. Besides packing my swimwear and other paraphernalia, there was the tedious job of depilating my hairy legs, before I got into my swim suit. But I am glad I persevered, a few quick strokes of the razor and out the door I went.
Let me describe my aqua aerobics class, held every week at a local council pool in the UK where I live. No, I am not about to talk about super-fit, local British women flexing their muscles, working up a storm in the swimming pool. On the contrary, when I initially joined, I found to my great surprise that the group of women were as international as it can get. Women from all over the world came together for this all-women aqua aerobics class, complete with a woman instructor and a lady lifeguard (of Indian origin.) I am sure I heard at least 2 Indian languages in the changing room and to my comfort found several ladies from the Indian subcontinent in the class. The average age of these women was between 55 and 60, perhaps more. At 40 plus, I certainly felt like one of the younger ones. Several older ladies looked like they really shouldn’t be doing this type of physical exercise. How completely wrong I was. Many people are actually referred by their doctor for this exercise for various medical problems and get to do it free of charge.
Many people are actually referred by their doctor for this exercise for various medical problems.
Getting into a swimsuit can be a traumatic experience for someone as imperfect as me. I mean the reason I joined the class was because of the pot-belly and overhanging rolls of fat on my midriff. How does one hide one’s food excess and laziness sins in something as tight and revealing as a swimsuit? Some years ago I found a solution. Instead of wearing a ‘regular’ swimsuit that one sees on perfectly toned beach babes, I found this incredibly comfortable and modesty covering bathing suit that has a full sleeved top and a pair of shorts that extend almost to the knees. These days, one can find half-sleeved versions, legging-like extensions all the way to the ankles and of course fully covering ones that even have a hoodie to cover the head, all of which are certified swimwear. But whatever form of swimwear one chooses, it has to be snug fitting, so that one can float and swim. So there is really no hiding place for the flab and that is something that always makes me conscious if I am going to a pool.
But in an all-women aqua aerobics class, I need not have fretted about how I looked, what I wore or panicked over uprooting every single hair on my body either. Here were women, only women, in all shapes, sizes, colours and differing abilities. Each wore what she wanted. Some wore conventional one-piece, cross-back swimsuits, some like me wore our adapted swimwear and some went one step further by covering up with a pair of ordinary leggings or a regular top over the swimsuit. Each woman did what she was comfortable with. Some women had obvious medical problems and one lady had learning difficulties, but there was no stopping anyone from enjoying this activity. In fact they even have a hoist to lower wheelchair-bound people into the pool. The blinds around the pool were closed for privacy.
The music started with a nice energetic beat. There were no male eyes to be wary of, no need to be conscious or inhibited. The lady who leads the aqua aerobics routine wears a small microphone, stands at the edge of the pool, shows us what to do and off we go.
We started with very simple steps and worked our way to more energetic stuff. After a few minutes, I started panting a little and looked around wondering how these elderly ladies were keeping up. To my shock, I found them smiling and effortlessly waving the their arms and jumping about in the pool. I egged myself on. Come on, I was one of the younger ones, I could not give up like this! So I challenged my lazy body, enjoyed the music, went with the flow, did only what I could manage, but kept up the tempo without stopping. Slowly my body was warmed and hey, I was smiling – it was not as difficult as it had first seemed.
In fact, being in water, one can do more with one’s body than outside it. So I can jump higher, feel less tired and twist my body more in the water. I look around and see that even the older Indian ladies are still going, the music even more upbeat and there is no way I am going to give up. The elderly lady next to me smiles at me through her wizened old eyes as she hears my frustrated squeal when I cannot bring my toes outside water. Her look encourages me to try harder and I know one day I will do it.
Some women had obvious medical problems and one lady had learning difficulties, but there was no stopping anyone from enjoying this activity. In fact they even have a hoist to lower wheelchair-bound people into the pool.
Before I know it, it is time to wind down. The body cools as the music slows down. The instructor has been shouting out words of encouragement to us ladies. “This will get you that six pack” she says as I try desperately to wake up my sleeping abdominal muscles. “Well done!” she keeps saying as we ladies keep going continuously for 45 minutes. There is a bit at the end where she even teaches us how to work the pelvic muscles. At the end of the routine, she gets a round of enthusiastic applause.
The ladies scramble to the shower room to change and when they amble out, many including the lifeguard are unrecognizable as they have changed back into their usual street wear, some wearing their traditional clothes.
As I enjoy the adrenaline rush and the endorphin surge through my invigorated body, I cannot help thinking that the lazy me has found my perfect exercise. I actually feel good after what my body has been through. My mind is refreshed. Gone is the lethargy. Much as I hate the smell of chlorine in my hair, I feel energized enough to think it was worth it and don’t fret over having to shampoo it. Besides I have made a few friends in the pool who smile, chat and encourage me to keep going.
Being in an all-women environment can have benefits. No cares about stares. Being in the water is a huge advantage. It is less tiring and lots of fun being in water. All that splashing about brings out the inner child in me. If someone is hydrophobic, I would suggest trying aqua aerobics to get rid of the phobia of water. Being in a group with women with different abilities and disabilities is a great motivation too: “If she can do it, I can too”.
To be honest, if I can do it, anyone can.
Disclaimer: This article is my own experience of aqua aerobics. This is not intended as medical advice or expert opinion. Women with medical problems or those pregnant should ask their doctor before attempting this. Also ideally, one needs to have a trained instructor and non-swimmers should be supervised by a lifeguard/ competent swimmer. One need not know how to swim to do aqua aerobics as it is usually done in the shallow end of the pool, but that is not an excuse for not trying to learn swimming.
Image via Shutterstock.
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