Groovy moves to sounds of music
SWIMMING: Water exercise has long been championed by sports and medical professionals as the ultimate in healthy workouts.In fact, you'd be hard pressed to find a sport that's more widely recommended – to every age and capability – as swimming.
By Debbie Watson
WATER exercise has long been championed by sports and medical professionals as the ultimate in healthy workouts.
In fact, you'd be hard pressed to find a sport that's more widely recommended – to every age and capability – as swimming.
But in the last decade of fitness progress, the 'O2' factor' has been helping to raise the profile of a rather more lively aqua past-time – and one that doesn't involve the thankless art of ploughing up and down lanes in monotonous repetition.
And the answer: Aquafit.
Whether you are young and fit, a reluctant exerciser, a mum-to-be, or a post-injury fitness enthusiast, this latest 'pool trend' is arguably one of the most accommodating of the lot.
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Essentially, the sport – or leisure pursuit – is very much on a par with other land-based aerobics classes.
You'll move to music, combine aerobic workouts with muscular endurance work, and you'll certainly get the physical and psychological benefits for which exercise is so well favoured.
Across Suffolk, the enthusiasm for aqua-aerobics (given various names according to each instructor and pool) has escalated dramatically in recent times, with classes popping up at pools and leisure centres everywhere.
Deben Pool, Felixstowe Leisure Centre and Next Generation all hold their own versions at various times throughout the week.
In Ipswich specifically, the popularity is such that eager 'converts' are now having to pre-book their place in a weekly class.
"It's definitely increasing in popularity, because people are finally starting to recognise the very real benefits that water exercise has," said instructor, Jane Townsend.
"It's an activity that can serve you well whatever age you are, whatever gender, and however fit you are."
Jane has been teaching water workouts for some ten years and is fully aware of the increased public popularity.
Much of it, she claims, is to do with changing perceptions about just how beneficial, sporting, or physically
challenging the activity really is.
For a long time, aquafit classes have been prone to being ridiculed as women-targeted 'water tea dances'.
"When I took my first qualification in water fitness, it was known as 'aquacise' and it was very much a session of gentle stretching. There was very little aerobic activity at all," commented Jane.
"Unfortunately, even though it has changed dramatically over the years, that early image became a difficult one to break down.
"People still went on believing that it was an activity for the less active – and also that it was a sport which belonged to women."
Fortunately, that is changing.
Nowadays, the reputation of aqua aerobics has been greatly enhanced. It is justifiably becoming more and more widely recognised as an activity that can provide a thoroughly challenging workout – and not only for the female.
Jane said: "Men are still cautious about the mention of 'aqua fitness', but I think that is progressively altering because even a lot of professional footballers are using the benefits of water exercise.
"The water acts like a liquid weight-machine and the resistance is all around you, so if you are seriously into fitness, then you really can make an aqua aerobics class work you very hard."
"I think that message is slowly getting through because we do have several regular male exercisers in our classes at Crown Pools," added Jane.
"One in particular came to me because he was on tablets for high blood pressure and had been encouraged to take up exercise.
"Six weeks later he came back to me after visiting his doctor and said he was now off the tablet and his blood
pressure had really dropped. The only thing he had changed in his lifestyle was coming to an Aqua Fitness class."
Also a qualified land-based aerobics instructor herself, Jane co-ordinates a number of classes at Crown Pools with a total of six instructors all taking classes at different times throughout the week.
Each instructor is fully qualified either through an ASA or Speedo Hydro-Actif system and typically
presents a 45-minute class to people of all ages and abilities.
Sessions include those in shallow water, in deep water with the help of body belts and also those targeted at antenatal women.
"The Borough Council has recognised the growing demand for aqua classes, so the current timetable of classes means that we can provide for everyone," said Jane.
"With the help of various pieces of equipment we are able to change the workouts so that each one is different, and as challenging or easy as the individual wants it to be."
And, contrary to the opinions of those who haven't yet sampled Aqua Fitness, it's also a great workout for non-swimmers, as well as for those whose illness or injury prevents other forms of exercise.
"Because of the safe environment that water provides, the classes really can cater for everyone," remarked Jane.
"Whether you're recovering from an injury, expecting a baby or at the peak of physical fitness, the sessions provide people with the opportunity to get their own rewarding workout."
Over the summer Aqua Fitness in Ipswich will be taking on an extra impetus in an effort to open more
Various one-off classes have been created at Crown Pools, and these start today with a Jubilee Aqua Party to music from the Queen's reign.
Tomorrow a one-off AquaKids session will be held for eight-16 year olds from 3-3.45pm.
"We're looking at these classes as tasters, with the view to regular childrens' sessions in the school holiday and an AquaSeniors group starting from September," Jane said.
"Aqua fitness really does cater for everyone."
The existing Aqua Fitness classes take place at Crown Pools on the following days. (If you have suffered an illness or injury, or are pregnant or are new mum, always consult your doctor before attending new aerobics classes).
12.30pm – 1.15pm: Aquatak.
7pm – 8pm: Aquanatal.
8pm – 8.45pm: AquaPostnatal/rehab.
2pm – 3pm: Cardiowave.
8pm – 8.45pm: Deep Water Aquamax.
8.45pm – 9.30pm: Deep Water Aquamax.
9.30am – 10.15am: AquaPostnatal / rehab.
10.15am – 11.15am Aquanatal.
8pm – 8.45pm: Ladies Only. Aquablast.
8.45pm – 9.30pm: Ladies Only. Aquablast.
9.45am – 10.45am: Aquahour.
For more information about Aqua Fitness lessons, phone Crown Pools on Ipswich 433655.