With the temperature dipping well below freezing, hitting the pool may be the last thing on your mind. But trust us, exercising in water has its benefits.
According to research from the Montreal Heart Institute, water-based workouts are just as effective for a quick-cardio boost than sweating it out on land. The advantages come from the water pressure, which helps your heart pump blood to your muscles more effectively. The water resistance can also make your workout feel like less work, pushing you to exercise harder and longer. The result? You’ll burn more calories without noticing!
Esther Gauthier of New York aqua cycling studio AQUA (think spin classes with your bike underwater), says you could burn up to 800 in an hour – more than a Double Big Mac!
And that’s not the only benefit of picking the pool over the gym. Researchers say exercising in water offers a killer workout without killing your joints, something Gauthier can attest to. “There’s no impact, so there is no trauma created in your muscles,” she explains.
You know that sore feeling you get the day after a brutal Pilates class? Get ready to leave it behind.
Water workouts could even be the answer to getting rid of stubborn cellulite, says Gauthier “When you peddle in the water, you get a natural massage.” This massaging action stimulates the fat and drains the lymphatic system, helping smooth cellulite.
Exercising in water is also a great muscle builder. Since it’s harder to move around in water, your muscles get more of a workout. It’s like strength training, without the dumbbells. Kopansky says there’s been a big surge in people seeking water-instructor training in the last year.
Here’s a roundup of our fave new workouts:
1. Underwater hockey
Targets: Total body
It may sound funny, but underwater hockey is no joke. This aquatic take on Canada’s national game offers all the camaraderie with none of the heavy equipment. Think snorkels, handheld mini-sticks and a weighted puck at the bottom of the pool.
Whitehorse Underwater Hockey forward Katrina Wohlfarth says her favourite part of the sport is “how in tune with your body you need to be to play well.”
Spotted at: Club teams all over. Find a team near you at CUGA.org.
2. Water jogging
Targets: Legs and core
When it’s too chilly to run outside but the treadmill’s feeling stale, switch things up by taking your daily jog to the pool. It’s the same movements, but instead of pounding the ground, you’re weightlessly cruising through the water with the help of a floatation belt. This exercise’s low-impact take on jogging makes it a great off-day workout for hardcore runners, but its core-strengthening benefits can help the rest of us too.
Spotted at: The City of St. John’s parks and recreation department and the Metro Vancouver YWCA.
Targets: Fat burning and cardio
This isn’t your grandma’s class! The new trend in aquarobics is all of your fave fitness classes, submerged. You can melt calories away as you groove to party tunes with Aqua Zumba. Looking for a more relaxing workout? Try aqua Pilates to gently strengthen the core and increase flexibility. Or jab and uppercut through the water with aqua kickboxing.
Spotted at: Goodlife Fitness in Toronto (Aqua Zumba only).
4. Aqua cycling
Aqua-cycling is the least sweaty spin class you’ll ever take. You’re still on a stationary bike, but your legs are underwater. Invented by a physiotherapist in Italy for people with knee injuries, this exercise has since become a favourite of Europe’s chicest gym bunnies. To really rock your ride, keep your back straight and work those abs. Hello, tighter tummy!
Spotted at: The Université du Québec à Montréal’s recreation centre and Halifax’s Canada Games Centre.
Make the most of your workout with our top tips:
1. Focus on posture
You may be in the water, but that’s no excuse to let your back go slack. Good form makes all the difference. “Start with a powerful posture foundation,” says Charlene Kopansky, president of the Canadian Aquafitness Leaders Alliance. That means a straight back, open chest, lifted pelvic floor, and tucked-in tummy. This will help you feel comfortable and cut your chances of injuring yourself.
2. Hang out in the deep end
Leave the shallow end to the kids. It turns out deep water lifts compression off your joints and makes your workout feel way better. “The deeper you are, the less impact you have,” says Kopansky. The top of the water should hit between your armpits and shoulders. If you’re feeling adventurous, put on a floatation belt and go for the pool’s deepest depths.
3. Move like you mean it
When you move your arms and legs in the water, the turbulence they create causes your core to work harder to stay stable. It’s super-important to maintain a full range of motion to get the most out of your workout. This means big, powerful movements, using your muscles and joints as much as possible without causing pain. If you can, keep your arms and legs long and straight as you kick and splash. To keep your movements controlled, “stay tight at the wrist and foot and keep them firm,” says Kopansky.
4. Turn up the tunes
“Music motivates movement,” says Kopansky. And you want to move fast! It turns out moving faster increases the intensity of your workout. Following the tempo of a fast-paced soundtrack will help you up your speed. Just be sure you’re not compromising your range of motion. If you are, you’re going too fast.
A flotation belt allows you to stay upright in deeper water. While some belts have gaps in them, Kopansky recommends wearing one with an equal amount of flotation all the way around to give you even support. It should be fitted but not so tight that it gets in the way of your breathing.
Still want to listen to music while you work out? Try one of these waterproof music solutions:
LifeProof iPhone 5 case, $85, lifeproof.com
Waterproof iPod Nano case, $12, h20audio.ca
Overboard mp3 player case, $39, overboardcanada.ca
Speedo Aquabeat mp3 player, around $110, speedo.com
What’s your favourite in-water aerobic exercise? Tell us in the comment section below.