So your traditional mat workout is no longer doing it for you -- time to look for an exercise that will coddle you poor joints and muscles. Enter Aqua Pilates. This kind of workout relies on the resistance, buoyancy and gentle movement of water to increase flexibility, balance and strength. Bonus: You might even get to play with a water noodle!
Equipment for Aqua Pilates
Basic aqua Pilates programs require no special equipment – just a pool and a swimsuit. More advanced Aqua Pilates routines may use ankle cuffs, Pilates rings or small therapy balls. Some programs even use aquatic dumbbells to increase resistance in the pool. While most traditional land-based Pilates moves take place laying on the floor, many of these exercises can be adapted to the water and performed in an upright position instead of laying on a mat. However, many programs use foam noodles, a popular pool toy, to provide stability for supine positions. This is where the real fun begins!
Nearly anyone can do Aqua Pilates. The exercise is appropriate for post-rehab patients, pregnant women, the overweight and those with chronic illnesses or injuries. It also increases strength for people suffering from joint stress, limited mobility or muscle fatigue. People who have osteoporosis or other fracture risks can do Pilates safely in the pool because the water acts as a cushion for the body -- that's one less thing to worry about.
Aqua Pilates vs. Aqua Aerobics
Aqua Pilates focuses on moves that are powered by the body's core -- that's your belly and back area. Aqua aerobics uses many moves that increase the heart rate by moving the limbs instead of engaging the core. The focus in Aqua Pilates is on stabilizing the body's parts through the core instead of moving various parts of the body.
Whether done on land or in water, the Star move strengthens the multifidus. (Bet you didn't know you had one of those!) The multifidus is a small muscle with the big job of supporting the spine and the buttocks, which makes this exercise so important. This move is done in Aqua Pilates by assuming the “V” stance, standing on your feet in chest-deep water. Keep the heels together and rotate the feet and legs out slightly to form a “V” shape. Extend your arms out to the side without raising your shoulder, then hold an aqua dumbbell with your right hand. Stay upright and slide your right arm out to the right side while the left leg rises. Continue to raise your leg as you flex your foot. Hold the pose for one second, then lower your leg and switch sides.
Poppy Carpenter graduated from the University of Missouri School of Journalism. In addition to teaching journalism to junior high students, she also covers health and fitness for "PUSH Monthly" and Angie's List.