While it didn’t gain popularity until the 1980s, the term water aerobics was developed a decade earlier to describe a type of exercise that improved cardiovascular health. We’ve got Jane Fonda’s exercise videos to thank for taking the movement viral. Perhaps the most motivational instructor of her time, Jane Fonda believed exercise should be taken seriously. One of her famous quotes is that namby-pamby little routines that don’t elevate your heartbeat or make you sweat aren’t worth your while. There’s one thing for sure: Jane Fonda was rooting for you to be the best version of yourself you could be. There’s no one who would argue that.
Interest in this new way to better health extended to the pool, gaining popularity among seniors where a low-impact variation was attractive. Since then, our understanding of science has led us to new ways to exercise. On land, we call these new trends things like boot camp, circuits, and intervals. So why are we still stuck in the 80s, using “water aerobics” to describe all water workouts? It’s time to break away from old-fashioned lingo and start talking about water workouts in present-day language that reflects current trends.
Goodbye water aerobics. Hello water exercise!
So why are we still stuck in the 80s, using “water aerobics” to describe all water workouts?
Water Aerobics – 1950-1980s
Jack LaLanne could be credited as the first to teach water exercise, touting the benefits of regular exercise and a healthy diet on his daily fitness television show, which ran from 1953 to 1985. Perhaps the first fitness superhero, Jack developed at-home water workouts to build strength without the stress of gravity.
The term aerobics was later developed by Dr. Kenneth Cooper, an exercise physiologist whose research and education center (the Cooper Institute) was devoted to preventative medicine. His point system to improve cardiovascular health led to aerobics being a widely recognized form of exercise in the late 70s.
In 1984, Ruth Sova founded the Aquatic Exercise Association (AEA), an education resource for fitness professionals. In 1993, she founded the Aquatic Therapy and Rehab Institute (ATRI), an organization dedicated to professional development for healthcare providers offering aquatic therapy. Thanks to these organizations and the people dedicated to furthering the field of aquatics, today we do so much more than just water aerobics.
What is Aerobics?
Aerobic exercise refers to physical activity that requires oxygen for fuel. It’s typically performed at a moderate intensity over a relatively longer period of time. For example, walking or jogging for a long distance at a moderate intensity is an aerobic activity. When exercising in the pool, doing any combination of whole body exercises at a moderate intensity is aerobic, targeting cardiovascular health.
Anaerobic exercise, without oxygen, is important to improve strength, balance and even weight loss. Aerobic and anaerobic differ by the duration and the intensity and how energy is generated. We can think of our anaerobic (without oxygen) as our first responder. It provides immediate available energy anytime we start an activity, important for fast, strong, powerful movements. Our body can sustain activity for up to about two minutes without the need for oxygen to power activity. Anaerobic exercises prepare us to walk up a flight of stairs, lift a bag of groceries, or for leisure activities like golf or tennis that require brief bursts of activity.
Water Exercise – Present-day
Most participants come to water exercise because it’s easy on the joints and offers the opportunity to improve more than just cardio. In fact, many participants claim their top reasons for participation are to increase core strength, lose weight and improve balance. Aerobic workouts on their own will not achieve these goals.
Water offers an ideal training environment to do both aerobic and anaerobic exercises to improve all health, fitness and performance goals. All you need is the right mix of intensity and duration to effectively employ both the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems and be on the fast track to results.
In fact, many participants claim their top reasons for participation are to increase core strength, lose weight and improve balance. Aerobic workouts on their own will not achieve these goals.
Goodbye water aerobics. Hello Water Exercise.
It’s time to change public perception of water workouts. Sure, aerobics is part of what we do, but it’s so much more. A water-based workout designed to hit both aerobic and anaerobic energy systems will improve strength, endurance, cardio, and balance. Even top competitive athletes use the pool for low-impact cross training. Most fitness participants who work out in the water on a regular basis will tell you how much better they feel, how much they’ve improved their overall fitness, and how difficult it would be to replicate these results with only land-based exercise.
It’s time to change public perception of water workouts.
Want to get serious about working out? Take off your leg warmers, slip into your swimsuit and jump into water exercise. It’s for everyone.
Founder of Wavemakers™