Water aerobics isn't just for seniors or for rehabbing injuries, as some may think. Water aerobics is effective for all-over body toning. And because it gets your heart rate up for some serious calorie burning -- up to 600 calories per hour, according to the Mayo Clinic -- water aerobics will help eliminate body fat to reveal those toned muscles.
When you're submersed in the pool up to your chest, the water provides resistance for your muscles on all sides. In the 2007 book "Fantastic Water Workouts," Marybeth Pappas Baun compared the workout you can get in the water with land-based weight training for enhancing muscle tone, pointing out that on land, if you don't have the strength to lower heavy weight safely, you can sustain injury by resisting the forces of gravity. But water is denser than air, providing equal resistance from all directions, not just from gravity's downward pull. This works your muscles on both sides of your joints at the same time, not only cutting down on chances of injury but also building balanced, even muscle strength.
In a water aerobics class you may start your workout with exercises like hugs, golf swings and triceps kickbacks. As you do these exercises, concentrate on pushing and pulling your hands through the chest-high water to effectively work your arms. For toning your pecs, focus on squeezing your pectorals during movements that mimic a chest press. Your back will tone up from the opposite movement when you pull your arms apart in the water and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Your legs will get a workout when you perform walking, running or cross-country skiing -- a movement in which you scissor your legs, alternating your left leg forward and your right leg back, then striding your right leg forward and your left leg back, keeping your knees straight but not locked. The effort you make to keep your ears, shoulders and hips aligned when executing walking, running and cross-country skiing movements will force your core muscles to participate.
Sometimes using things like foam water weights and webbed gloves will increase the water's resistance. Water noodles are another useful item for a water aerobics class. For example, your instructor may ask you push the noodle to the bottom of the pool with your foot and have you balance on it with both feet while using your hands in a paddling motion to help you balance while moving forward.
Reasons to Tone in Water
All-over toning from the water's resistance is just one benefit of water aerobics. Exercises that typically pose a challenge on land are easier to do in the water. It's the buoyancy that adds this element of ease. When most of your body is submerged in water, you won't feel the pounding impact you would on land when performing exercises like lunges, jumps and kicks. And when you're in water, it has a continuous, cooling effect, keeping your body from overheating during an intense water aerobics workout.