Aqua workouts

Floating around the pool all day may help you escape the heat, but what’s it doing for your body? Not much in terms of burning calories. Turn your watery haven into a gym this summer with an aqua workout. It keeps body heat in check, can be done by non-swimmers, and is helpful for people with weight and joint issues,“because around 85 per cent of body weight is held by the buoyancy of water, so you don’t feel any strain and can actually perform moves for longer than you would in on-floor sequences,” says international fitness expert, nutritionist and director of Delhi-based GFFI Fitness Academy, Neeraj Mehta.

The most common form of water fitness borrows moves from regular aerobics (lunges, squats, spot running) but when done in a pool, you can perform even advance exercises on your first attempt. “Aqua aerobics focuses on cardio with jogging, jumping jacks, arm toning (with foam dumbbells), core-strengthening and leg-strengthening exercises. Water is 700 times denser than air, and its buoyancy assists certain moves. For example: a knee-up jog (raising the knee really high while jogging) or both-knee-up jumps (jumping up with both knees bent) can be hard to try on the floor. The impact of these steps on knees and ligaments is tremendously reduced in water, so you avoid injuries,” explains Mumbai-based aqua fitness trainer Snehal Bhal.

This can be incorporated into an aqua aerobic workout as a 15-minute high-intensity interval training (HIIT). When these sequences are added to a regular class, around 1,000-1,200 calories are sent to their watery grave. “They’re only practised in 15-minute slots as it isn’t possible to maintain the high intensity for an entire hour. While water acts as a cushion around your joints, it also makes you work harder because you work against it,” explains Mumbai-based aqua specialist and the pioneer of aqua aerobics in India, Deepali Jain. For instance, when you throw punches underwater, the impact on your joints isn’t strenuous, but as you strike each punch against the water, you’re working the muscles harder even though you won’t feel the strain.

Aqualates, like aqua kickboxing, is performed as HIIT. The working principle for all aqua workouts is the same: build strength by using the buoyancy of water. “Try holding Tadasana (tree pose; when you bend one leg and place the foot on the thigh of the other leg and find balance standing on one leg) in water. Close your eyes and hold the pose at the end of the pool. When you open your eyes after a minute or two, you’ll find yourself in the middle of the pool. Holding a posture in water without moving is hard. When you stand in tadasana (or any other posture) without moving, that’s when you know you have engaged your body from head to toe,” says Jain. The same applies for aqua yoga; you build resistance by holding an asana without letting the movement of water alter your stance.

Chlorine destroys sebum, making hair dry, brittle and prone to split ends. It also causes dry and itchy skin. Remedy? Cover yourself from head to toe with Johnson’s Baby Oil (Rs 165) before you hit the pool. The mild concoction protects your hair and skin, and is easy to wash off, too. After the workout, wash yourself thoroughly and always moisturise.

Check if your instructor is a certified aqua specialist and of course, run a basic check of any pool you workout in; it should be cleaned every day and follow national pool safety guidelines. “People with skin infections and epilepsy should not practise in public pools. If possible, make sure your classmates are healthy to avoid any water-borne infections. And, never practice without the supervision of a qualified instructor,” warns Jain. [Find these experts on; (Neeraj Mehta);]

Expect to burn between 500-750 calories per hour in a regular class and if you join one that offers HIIT, you’ll lose up to 1,200 calories. In addition to aiding weight loss and giving you a sculpted body, an aqua workout improves stamina and increases the range of motion in your joints. “It is especially useful for building core strength as the hydrostatic pressure of water is applied equally to all parts of the body and this automatically engages abdomen muscles and strengthens the core so you can have that flat stomach you always wanted,” says Jain. It’s also a lot more fun than exercising on land. “Aqua aerobics breaks the monotony of typical weight training and cardio routines. We keep changing sequences so you will never get bored,” assures Mehta.

Photograph: David Burton

You may also want to read: Zumba 101

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