Aquatic Exercise – Not Just for Bubbies

On any given day at a variety of pools in the Jerusalem area, you will find frum English-speaking women of all ages bouncing along in water fitness sessions led by effervescent instructor Malka Kornreich. No longer exclusively the domain of seniors seeking gentle exercise in water. Water aerobics (also known as aquatic exercise or water fitness) is increasing in popularity worldwide. The “Washington Post” reported recently that exercising in the water is becoming more and more popular with younger Americans looking for healthy and effective forms of exercise.

Why has water aerobics become such a prevalent form of fitness and what is attracting frum women in particular to the sport?


A Superior Form of Exercise

“People assume erroneously that aquatic exercise is less effective than exercising on dry land,” comments Malka. “After all, out of the water we feel every ache and pain, and burn calories by perspiring. What people don’t realize is that a workout in water is more intense than on dry land! As we enter the magical environment of the water, the properties of water make us feel lighter and more flexible. In fact can accomplish more. Our movements are numerous times more effective than a land workout as we use the resistance of the water as weight-bearing exercise.”

According to research, working out in the water provides 12 times the resistance of doing the same exercises on land. Many water aerobics classes involve weightlifting, running, dancing and stretching underwater, providing all of the same fat-burning benefits of a typical aerobics class. A typical water aerobics class can help burn up to 790 calories in one hour of working out.

Ohio State University explains that working out in a deep-water aerobics class can reduce our working heart rate by as much as 17 beats per minute when compared to exercising out of the water. Because of this reduction in heart rate, our bodies may not feel as tired as when running or cycling. However we are still getting the same workout benefits.

“I liked the high after exercising but I hated the muscle pain and perspiration,” notes Aidel,  who has been an enthusiastic participant in Malka’s classes for three years. “Malka has an infectious personality, the classes are fun and I am amazed at how flexible I feel out of the water.I joined my teenage daughter who was practicing ballet exercises at home, and was able to stretch further than her!”


Health Benefits

We achieve all the medical benefits of a regular exercise program. Besides weight loss and muscle tone there is risk reduction for chronic disease, improved circulation and stronger heart and lungs. There is also increase in stamina strength and endurance, lower resting blood pressure and pulse, increased life span, control and prevention of type 2 diabetes. Also well known is that exercise improves osteoporosis, lower back pain syndrome, arthritis, and neuro-muscular diseases.

According to Malka, there are tremendous developments that can be expected with a regular exercise routine. These include, self-confidence and awareness, positive changes in mood, relief of depression and anxiety and increased mental well-being. This can have a ripple effect on ones relationships and ability to function at home and other everyday situations.

“My doctor recommended that I join a water aerobics class due to a knee problem,” explains Bassya, a long-term participant in Malka’s classes. “Obviously my knees were not up to high-impact aerobic exercise or strength training.  I never imagined the extent to which my health would benefit. As well as eradicating my knee pain, I have increased physical energy and the exercise puts me in a great frame of mind as well! I enjoy the social aspect of meeting English-speaking women of all ages and stages. My week feels lacking in every way if I have to miss a class.”

Aquatic exercise is uniquely beneficial in the following areas:

  • It has greatly reduced impact and pressure on the body, which both prevents and cures injuries
  • Due to water’s buoyancy, hydro-static pressure increases circulation and reduces swelling. This is particularly beneficial for larger people, pregnant women and people with injuries.
  • The resistance of the water is excellent for burning calories and weight loss.
  • Myriad pre-natal and post-partum, which will be discussed in a follow-up article.

“After doing water aerobics for most of my pregnancy, I had a much easier birth than my first one,” shares a young mother named from Aviva from England who is currently  living in Jerusalem.


You Don’t Need to Know How to Swim or Exercise

Strange as this may sound, people who are afraid of the water or are poor swimmers can enjoy the benefits of aquatic exercise. Malka conducts classes in a variety of pools, and some are designed specifically for aquatic exercise, without a deep end. (uniformly 1.3 meters deep)

As for people currently or chronically out of shape, lacking coordination, or those self-conscious about their bodies or workout abilities, water aerobics provides an ideal medium. The cooling effect of the water is a more comfortable exercise medium for the larger adult. Water covers up the body making the large adult less self-conscious while exercising.

“When we are working out in the pool, sloshing waves surround each of us as we move against the resistance of the water,” explains Aidel. “These waves cover up our movements so nobody else can tell how well we are doing an exercise”.

Malka typically offers her students simpler and more challenging options for performing  a particular exercise. “In an aqua fitness class all insecurities melt away in the water,” she states.” The class is not competitive, and the water covers up that which people would like to hide. Each individual can work out on her own level and feel comfortable, agile and accomplished. ”

And the social benefits are an excellent plus. The friendly atmosphere that Malka engenders, the opportunity for English-speaking women to engage in a pleasurable activity together only serves to increase their motivation to exercise further.

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