Many popular fitness disciplines move from land into the water. Here are some of the newer trends that are worth checking out, from aqua yoga to Aqua Zumba.
The fitness world sees a constant stream of innovative new disciplines (and variations on existing activities) that promise to combine physical exercise with fun. Some immediately fade into obscurity or become only short-lived fads, while others gain more traction and become ubiquitous. Many of the more popular land-based trends make their way into the pool as well. A few old aqua fitness favourites are still going strong, like water aerobics and aqua spinning, but there are some more recent trends worth looking into as well. Here are a few options to check out.
Yoga is an ancient practice, of course, but it has become undeniably trendy in recent years. If you’ve tried land-based yoga and wondered what all the fuss was about, consider giving the practice a second chance in the water. Water changes the discipline in several ways. Your movements face greater resistance and your muscles must contract differently to maintain a steady pose, and the body’s buoyancy means you don’t need to support your full weight. Some movements and poses are more difficult in the water and others are easier. Like its terrestrial counterpart, aqua yoga is great for building strength, flexibility and body awareness, but it’s generally not a huge calorie burner (though this varies greatly based on the type of yoga—hatha burns the fewest calories—and the specific class, as many instructors will add more vigorous movements to keep you warm if the water temperature is on the cooler side, for example). With its typical focus on relaxation and concentration, aqua yoga wouldn’t generally be categorized as particularly fun, per se, but it can be deeply satisfying.
Like aqua yoga, aqua Pilates is a mindful movement discipline that provides primarily strength and flexibility benefits rather than calorie burning. Aqua Pilates has a stronger focus on the body’s core muscles (stabilizing and lengthening as well as strengthening) and often incorporates equipment such as balls and pool noodles. Some classic Pilates movements cannot be done in the pool, but a great many transfer well, with the resistance and buoyancy of the water adding a unique twist to the exercises. As with yoga, the ‘fun quotient’ is more likely to be determined by the degree of companionship with like-minded individuals in the class rather than the activity itself.
Aqua Pole Dancing
Pole dancing has long since moved beyond the strip club and is recognized as a high-intensity, fat-burning and muscle-toning form of exercise. Aqua pole dancing uses many of the same moves as traditional pole dancing, adapted to the water. (The steel poles are stable; they have a weighted base that’s attached to the bottom of the pool with suction pads, in case you’re worried.) The exercises are great for toning your upper body in particular, as you have to continually move yourself up and down the pole. Practitioners say you can burn up to 500 calories in a 45-minute class. It’s all set to music, of course, which makes for a fun, high-energy atmosphere.
If you love dancing, Aqua Zumba could be for you. Like terrestrial Zumba, Aqua Zumba emphasizes moves from Latin-flavoured dances such as the salsa, merengue and mambo, but slowed down a bit to account for the greater resistance of the water. Fun music and a good instructor can almost make you forget that you’re in an exercise class—but you’ll still burn 500 to 600 calories per session.
One of the newest trends to hit the pool is Aquaphysical, a combination of yoga poses and high-intensity interval training performed on a floating mat. The full-body workout includes moves like lunges, burpees and planks. The almost inevitably unsuccessful effort to keep your equilibrium is part of the fun, and you can burn up to 800 calories in a 45-minute class.
What’s your favourite aqua fitness discipline?