The Healthy Bear Goes To Aqua Aerobics

Hey there Guys,

About 6 months ago I was diagnosed with a chronic back condition that sadly is unlikely to get much better.

Frequently I would start exercice to only start getting neck, mid and lower back pain. Walking was ok, cycling used to be ok, and lifting weights for me has been very difficult.

In frustration I have been working hard to find a healthy activity that helps me keep fit, keeps my mind active that is fun. Enter the exciting new world of aqua aerobics!

I have to admit that I have came to aqua aerobics with some apprehension about what to expect. Will it be all little old ladies splashing about? Will I be the only guy in the pool? Is it just going to be some light an fluffy exercise class?

A bit unsure I dragged my good mate Christopher Banks AKA Bipolar Bear along for my first class. You can read about his experience here in his blog post: Water Bears

So to address my own concerns: yes there were plenty of little old ladies. There was also pregnant ladies, middle aged ladies and even a handful of men. Actually the male numbers are on their way up. Seems that some of the girls are starting to bring their partners along which adds to the eye candy 🙂 . As for the work out, it can be as hard or as easy as you make it.

So what is an aqua aerobics class like?

Aqua aerobics is pretty much what you make of it. As with most traditional exercise classes it’s organized group movement to music. This is great for me as I get bored easily. Having a fun instructor like Judy, pictured above, means I can shut down my mind and just laugh and move for 45 minutes. An interesting study done in Kentucky has demonstrated that water aerobics had a soothing anti-anxiety effect immediately after the class in elderly women. While I can not vouch for the ladies who attend my class, after a hard session I feel a lot better, happier and if I’ve had a crappy day it certainly is a nice pick me up.

The basic structure of a water aerobics class is a warm up followed by alternating periods of high intensity and active rest that gets the heart pumping. After about 30 minutes there is normally some strength work using special polystyrene dumbbells that provide resistance in the water. The class is finished with a nice stretch and a bit of a cool down.

What I really enjoy with aqua aerobics is the ability to choose the intensity I wish to work. With the water providing gentle resistance, movements that are gravity dependent on land take on new sensations, activating different muscles. The faster you move in water the harder the work out is. The more surface area you move in the water the harder the work out. Something as simple as changing your hands from a fist to open palm can really increase the intensity and work those muscles hard.

Because of the activation of many different muscles it’s actually possible to work almost all the muscles of the body in a 45 minute class.

By far the biggest bonus for me is that the water softens impact. With my back sore some days being in the water takes the pressure off my spine enabling me to jog,  jump and squat without the jarring that I would experience in land based exercise. Being in the water also keeps me cool. If you have never experienced breaking a sweat in the pool it’s an unusual sensation indeed.

Who would I recommend water aerobics for?

To be honest most people would benefit from attending a water aerobics class however there are some people who may find it perfect for themselves.

If you suffer with joint pain exercising in the water is a great way to move your muscles without the repetitive strain caused by land based aerobics. The resistance of the water is totally under your control and you decide how hard you wish to exercise. If you weigh more then 90-95kg I highly recommend water based work to reduce the chance of damage to your knee’s, back and ankles.

If you are diabetic, aqua will help decrease your sugar levels and increase insulin sensitivity. Be sure to have a wrist band that says you are diabetic: check out my post on Medibands here, and bring some jelly beans in a small plastic packet just in case you need a sugar hit.

If you are new to exercise and you are looking for a fun yet challenging workout aqua classes could be a great choice for you. Again it’s your ability to pace yourself to a level that you a comfortable that will ensure you are getting the best workout for you. As you advance you can really increase the intensity with simple changes in the way you do each movement. Hard or a bit easier, the choice is up to you.

For people who have had joint replacements, pool based exercise is great for rehab and offers pain free low impact exercise. Multiple studies have demonstrated water aerobics to reduce pain, increasing frequency of exercise and helping people maintain and even reduce weight.

What do you need for an aqua class?

Most centers provide all the equipment you need.

If you are looking for a pool to attend classes at it is best to go to an indoor pool. This way there is little variability in pool temperature and will enable you to attend year round.

If you have ever had an organ transplant or you are immune suppressed try to attend morning classes as the pool filter will have been on over night and the water should be at it’s cleanest.

Other then a pool and a pair of swimmers, you just need an instructor who is fun, and ready to work towards getting everyone to their best potential. Each instructor is different and over time you will find one or two instructors who’s classes you enjoy.

While I understand not everyone reading this will be around my home town of Melbourne, if you are I can highly recommend any of the classes held by Judy. She currently works with the Yarra City recreational team and hosts classes in Clifton Hill and Richmond. Come on along and check out one of her classes, let her know Dr George sent ya!

Come and have a splash guys, the water’s fine.

Yours in good health.

Dr George


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