My husband and I share our lap-swimming time slot at our neighborhood Y with a water aerobics class. A few lanes on one side are roped-off for swimming laps, and the rest of the pool is used by the aerobics class. It is usually a relatively quiet bunch of folks dutifully responding to whatever moves the instructor is making. One day while were swimming, music suddenly started playing and it began to get rather lively. Pausing to look around, I saw smiles everywhere as everyone was moving and bobbing to the music.
That’s when I noticed the instructor. She was full of energy as she stood at the edge of the pool, moving her legs and arms to demonstrate the actions she wanted the class to copy. They were a happy bunch. The air was full of laughter and music.
“What a great class!” I thought. Since I’ve always loved the water, I decided to see if the teacher would be willing to share some of her thoughts, insights, and experiences to help encourage others to give water aerobics a splash.
Water Classes a Natural Fit for Instructor
I caught up with Heidi, and she graciously agreed to share her joy of water aerobics. As a Tampa, Florida native, she does not remember a time when she didn’t love the water. Swimming competitively from age six to college, a career that involved teaching water fitness was a natural fit.
Her initial introduction to the world of water aerobics was at the age of 19. Her mom was taking a class at a spa in Tampa and urged her to go as well. It did not take long for Heidi to transition from taking classes to teaching them. Back then, she said there was not a lot of emphasis on certifications for teaching water-based programs. Over the years, the levels of certifications have evolved to become more comprehensive. With a bachelor’s degree in Corporate Fitness, as well as her experience in water fitness, Heidi has been able to effortlessly keep up with all the advanced certification requirements during her 35 years of teaching.
Water exercise equipment has also changed over the years. Heidi said that back when she was teaching water fitness at the spa in Tampa, they used milk jugs for increased resistance, but now there are a whole host of floatables, wearables, and holdables to provide a quality workout.
Water Fitness helps with Arthritis
Although she enjoys teaching any water fitness class, Heidi’s heart is geared to helping those with arthritis.Before COVID came along, the Y where Heidi worked offered an arthritis class. Over time it became more than simply a class for both Heidi and the participants. It became the highlight of the day for many as the water class offered a way forward from the crippling limitations of arthritis. The buoyancy of the water enabled many to move in ways that are not possible on land due to pain and weakness. The classes also created fellowship both in and out of the water. Heidi invited those from the class to her home for annual potlucks and fun.
Heidi was like a mother-hen caring for and helping students achieve victories such as gaining the endurance to move a cart through a grocery store. Seemingly small successes were celebrated as folks overcame pain and limitations. One example was a lady who regained the ability to carry two coffee cups from the counter to the table. Another success story was when someone lost 100 pounds over many years taking the class. Additionally, the CDC recognizes the health benefits of Water-based Exercise.
Water fitness is also beneficial for those with balance issues and building endurance. Non-swimmers can participate since the water is shallow enough to feel safe, and flotations devices are available. One of the features of a water class is that it’s not as evident if you miss a move, as it would be in a land class. Heidi tells everyone, “When in doubt, jog it out”.
When I asked what drew her to water fitness, Heidi responded that she feels like water is a different creature. It develops a fellowship and creates equality by leveling the playing field. There is more effort required and a vulnerability that is not present in a land class. Although she teaches a variety of folks, it is evident that seniors are her love, and as evidenced by all the happy participants – it shows.
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