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Water aerobics is quickly becoming one of the most popular fitness trends in the nation. Formerly considered a good workout for senior citizens and injured athletes, it is now entering the mainstream in fitness.

Everyone can benefit from water aerobics because the workout is low impact and can always be tailored to your fitness level. Water aerobics can give you a total body workout and is one of the few exercises that can be done during the heat of day.

Because water is approximately 12 times more resistant than air, you’re actually getting a better workout in less time than aerobics on land. Because water gently cushions and supports the body, water aerobics are substantially less wearing on joints and muscles. Additionally, because water resists movement in all directions, you can strengthen opposing muscle groups with one exercise. It is designed to improve muscle tone, heart and lung capacity, and flexibility. Normally, the exercises are done in a pool in water 4 to 6 feet deep. The workouts are usually accompanied by music and a certified instructor who also doubles as a lifeguard.

There are many different ways to do water aerobics, and your imagination is the only limit! Many community and recreation centers offer low-cost water aerobic classes all over the country. Check with your local YMCA, recreation center, or gym to see if they do.

As with all sports, it is important to use the right gear and equipment when making water aerobics part of your exercise routine. While this exercise does not require all of the following equipment to be successful and fun, there are suggestions that can help you maximize your fitness training and water experience. Here they are:

SWIMSUIT: When working out in the water, it is important to wear a swimsuit designed for "real" swimming and athletics. You will probably want a higher neck, supportive straps in back (that don’t slip down as you move your arms), and a suit that is somewhat snug on your body. There is nothing more frustrating than constantly having to pull your swimsuit up, out, and over different parts of your body as you try to work out.

SWIM CAP: Not everyone likes a swim cap, but it can serve a few important functions. First of all, it will keep your hair out of your eyes and free from chlorine. It can also help keep you warmer in cold water. Swim caps come in a wide variety of materials, thicknesses, and colors. Try several until you find one you like.

GOGGLES: These are highly recommended if you wear contact lenses. During water aerobics there is usually lots of splashing, and some people prefer to wear goggles. It is up to you, but if you choose to wear them, make sure you get a pair that really fits your face. A good-fitting pair of goggles should lightly suction onto your face but won’t leave red rings for an hour after you take them off.

KICKBOARD: This is a flat, buoyant board that is normally held with the arms while you practice your kicks. When using a kickboard, make sure to keep your arms stretched out in front of you. If you rest your shoulders or elbows on the board, you can place strain on your shoulders.

SWIM PADDLES AND MITTS: Swim mitts are specially designed gloves that work as swim fins for your hands. They are used if you want to build upper body strength and are included in many water aerobic workouts. Even if your instructor does not use them in the routine, it is highly recommended that you use them if you want to get more out of your workout in general. Wearing swim mitts increases the resistance of the water and therefore works your muscles harder. Swim paddles act in much the same way but are held in the hand, rather than worn as a glove.

FLOAT BELT: Flotation belts are used when you want to do aerobics in deeper water, and they also keep you upright for proper body alignment, which is important when doing any exercise.

SAFETY DURING WATER AEROBICS

Always keep a water bottle with you during your workout. As with other exercise, you will become dehydrated, and it is important to replenish your fluids. You may not notice your dehydration as quickly as when exercising on land, so be aware.

If you are used to reaching a specific heart rate in your exercise out of the water, do not force your body to match that heart rate when exercising in the water. Heart rates are generally lower in the water than on land, but that does not mean you are not getting as much of a workout. There are several reasons for this:
1. If you are exercising in cold water, your heart rate will be lower,
2. Water is a good medium for wicking heat away from your body as you exercise, resulting in a lower heart rate, and
3. Because there is less gravity in water, blood can flow more easily up and down your body, reducing stress on the heart and resulting in a lowered workout heart rate.