Peggy Vanvliet has been a water aerobics instructor at Old Town Hot Springs for more than 30 years. She started as a lifeguard and even spent some time working at the front desk, where she observed a growing need for water-based exercise programs.
“I observed a need for more water classes and wanted to get certified through the Aquatic Exercise Association,” Vanvliet said. “I realized it’s a wonderful way to exercise. You get all of the benefits of exercising on land with some added benefits from the water.”
For many years, water aerobics was stereotyped as an activity exclusively for the elderly, overweight, or injured, an assumption that Vanvliet wants to dispel. “Everyone can benefit from exercising in the water and I think these classes are growing in popularity.”
Benefits of Exercising in Water
Cardiovascular Benefits: As soon as you step into the water, your blood pressure and heart rate decrease, allowing more blood to flow to your extremities while putting less strain on the heart muscle itself. The hydrostatic pressure (the pressure of the water) actually then helps push the blood out of the extremities and back to the heart, making the heart more efficient at pumping blood.
Reduced Gravity: Intuitively, it may seem obvious that exercising in the water reduces the impact on joints. Submerging your body, even 50% in water, reduces 50% of your body weight. This can give individuals a larger range of motion than what they have available on land and the ability to exercise with weights that might otherwise cause discomfort and joint pain.
Work Out Muscles in 3-Dimensions: While exercising in an aquatic environment offers relief from the pressure of gravity, water does create 12 times the amount of resistance as moving through air. This allows individuals to work out their muscles in three dimensions, rather than just one. Imagine, for example, doing a bicep curl on land. The majority of the exercise happens as you lift the weight toward your shoulder. The muscles are not being exercised as you release the weight back down. In water, however, the same resistance is applied as you raise or lower the weight, offering a more balanced workout experience.
Low Impact Aquatic Exercises
Zero Equipment Aquatic Workouts: Even without equipment, any type of movement where you are using the resistance of the water is beneficial. Leg lifts and jumping jacks are good options for using the resistance of the water against your limbs to facilitate a good workout. Experiment with different ways of increasing your resistance, such as cupping your hands, to increase the workout.
Buoyant Exercise Equipment: Pieces of equipment designed to be used in an aquatic environment, such as floating weights and pool noodles, offer an opportunity to work out the muscles typically underutilized on land. “With a buoyant piece of equipment, you’re basically working the opposite muscle than what you might think,” Vanvliet said. “The resistance occurs while you are pulling that muscle back down.”
Drag Equipment: Drag equipment, such as webbed gloves and kickboards, increase your resistance as you move through the water. Therefore, increasing the benefit of your workout. Even just holding onto the kickboards and gently paddling your feet can be a full body workout, as the arms and core engage to hold the kickboard down, and the leg muscles are worked by the resistance of the water.
Aquatic Exercise Classes at Old Town Hot Springs
Interested in trying your first low-impact aquatic workout? There are multiple low-impact aquatic exercise classes available at Old Town Hot Springs.
Fit for Life – These early morning classes are perfect for individuals at every fitness level. The instructors will provide modifications and adapt the workout routine to suit the needs of the entire group. “No one will be singled out for their ability level and you’re under the water so you don’t need to be self-conscious of your range of motion,” Vanvliet said.
H20 Deep – Unlike the Fit for Life classes, H20 Deep moves into a deeper area of the pool, where participants can no longer rely on their feet touching the ground. Participants must rely on their core strength to continue treading water throughout the class while the instructor leads through strength work and cardio with a warm-up and cool-down.
Interested in learning more about the benefits of low-impact aquatic exercise? Visit Old Town Hot Springs and register for one of the water-based group fitness classes or work one-on-one with an experienced personal trainer.