Water fitness really can get you in shape

From aqua yoga to aqua running, water fitness classes are a great way to burn calories and have fun

water fitness, aquafitness, aqua aerobics

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Each week personal trainer Barb Gormley answers your most pressing fitness questions.

Question: I usually walk or run outdoors, but during the winter I want to exercise indoors where it’s warm and not slippery. The aqua fitness classes at my community centre look fun, but I don’t know much about them. Are they a good workout?

Answer: I love aqua fitness classes and recommend them to lots of people. Here are a few tips to get you started.

1. Find the right class
Aqua classes were pretty basic years ago (lots of jogging on the spot and jumping jacks), but today there are beginner to advanced levels, as well as pre- and post-natal classes, water running, aqua yoga and even aqua tai chi.

There are also three styles of classes to choose from based on water depth: “chest deep” (feet on the pool floor), “suspended chest deep” (feet lifted off the pool floor while using a floatation device like a pool noodle) and “deep water” (water is over your head, and you use a floatation device). Each level requires progressively more skill and more comfort with the water.

2. Check instructor qualifications
Look for instructors certified by organizations like WaterArt Fitness International and the Canadian Aquafitness Leaders Alliance. They will challenge you with fun choreography, safe and interesting moves, and great music, the same way a spinning or cardio kick boxing instructor does.

3. Calorie burning comparisons
Compared to swimming, aqua fitness classes are considered to be a better all-round exercise because they use a greater variety of muscles. You won’t burn as many calories as with running, but the calorie burning is still considerable – about the same as brisk walking or a low-impact aerobics class. If you need an extra cardio burst at the end of the class, try water running a few widths in the shallow end (lean forward slightly and pump your arms to propel yourself forward).

4. Perks of water exercise
Lots of exercisers love the water because it gives their hips and knees a break from the pounding they endure with running and walking. (If your main goal is strong bones though, aquafitness may not be your best exercise choice since the pounding is what helps strengthen bones.)

The water is also perfect if you’re recovering from a minor injury, like a sprained ankle or shin splints – you can often keep up your fitness level without stressing the injured body part.

Think you’re a bit too klutzy for fancy fitness class moves? Don’t worry. Your body’s mostly underwater during the workout, so no one knows if you’re doing each move or combination exactly right.

5. One last tip
Visit the washroom just before the class starts. Exercising in the water puts your kidneys into overdrive – they excrete up to seven times more urine compared to exercising on land. You’ll also be sweating from the hard work (it’s easy to forget this when the water constantly washes away the sweat). To stay hydrated, keep a water bottle near the side of the pool and top yourself up once the class is over.

Barb Gormley is a certified personal trainer and a freelance health and fitness writer. You can contact her at

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