Once frowned upon as water aerobics for seniors, aqua fitness has established itself as a full-body workout for everyone. Read here why aqua jogging, aqua boxing and Co. are the perfect alternative to the gym.

Aqua jogging was frowned upon for a long time. Among swimmers as well as among runners. As meaningless hopping around in the hip-deep and lukewarm paddling pool. Nothing half and nothing whole. Treading water for seniors with too much time. These and other clichés hovered everywhere about the fitness method, which at first glance seemed a bit strange. Admittedly, the lifestyle factor in aqua jogging is manageable. Nevertheless, water aerobics has now not only established itself in rehabilitation, it is recognized as a full-body workout that is not only extremely easy on the joints, but is also particularly efficient – for amateur, recreational and competitive athletes alike.

Read why aqua jogging is more than jumping around in the shallow children’s pool and why top athletes and many team athletes rely on it.

Water beats dumbbells and running shoes

Swimming is one of the most demanding endurance sports there is. If you don’t master the technique properly – regardless of the style – you will never be really happy with the element of water. The problem (or the advantage): water is 800 times denser than air. The body has to expend significantly more energy in the pool to move forward than when jogging in the park. Anyone who has ever tried to walk in water – even if only in knee-deep water – will have noticed that their strength quickly dwindles. Labeling aqua fitness in general and aqua jogging, aqua zumba, aqua boxing and much more as pastimes for seniors is complete nonsense. Quite the opposite: Instead of dragging tired and stressed bones across the asphalt or uncontrollably tossing dumbbells from A to B in the gym, water is almost predestined as a fitness device – for young and old, fat and thin, couch potatoes and top athletes.

Aqua jogging – who invented it?

A certain John Glenn McWaters – no, that’s not a pseudonym – developed the now world-renowned training method in the 1970s – and called it “Deep Water Running”. More specifically, the resourceful US Navy officer experimented with training aids that would make walking in deep water possible. The result was the so-called “Wet Vest”, a vest made of neoprene. Track and field coach McWaters recognized the benefits of aqua jogging early on and tried to use it to get his soldiers into a solid state of fitness. The tools have been further developed. Nowadays, when you go aqua jogging, you strap a so-called foam buoyancy belt around your upper body or put on a foam vest. Both tools are lightweight and comfortable and, in addition to buoyancy, aid in balance in the water.

In Germany, the movement therapist Margot Zeitvogel-Schönthier is considered a pioneer of aqua training. She has been looking after and advising winter sports enthusiasts in particular for many years – including athletes from the German, Swedish and Canadian Ski Associations. The author of numerous specialist books has also established various methods of training in water in tennis, handball, football and climbing – including aqua jogging.

Why aqua jogging instead of a run in the park?

First of all, water has a resistance several hundred times greater than air. This makes the training a bit more strenuous in the long run, but the training effect is a lot greater. Because of the increased hydrostatic pressure, more blood is pumped to the heart – the stroke volume increases by up to 20 percent. Conversely, the heart rate drops. It is assumed that the maximum heart rate is about eight to ten beats lower than when running on land. With aqua jogging, you can achieve the same training effect with a run in the park with significantly less stress.

In addition, because of the buoyancy effect, you only train with a fraction of your own body weight (in chest-deep water, 70 kg of body weight on land becomes seven kilograms). Which – and this is one of the great advantages of aqua jogging – has a positive effect on the joints, muscles and tendons. They are exposed to considerable stress when running conventionally – whether on park paths, asphalt roads or elsewhere – due to the permanent compression. “The risk of injury is almost zero,” agrees Ingo Froboese, professor at the German Sport University in Cologne.

Zeitvogel-Schönthier also swears by the massage effect of the water. “It caresses and kneads the skin like a thousand tender hands”. This is ensured by the already mentioned hydrostatic pressure and the natural frictional resistance of the water. The more intense the movements are performed, the stronger the effect. And that is also reflected in the body weight. Froboese: “Because of the slower movements in the water, the muscles primarily fall back on the fat reserves instead of sugar deposits.” Due to the improved blood circulation, the connective tissue is also tightened. Cellulite is also a problem with aqua jogging.

What types of aqua jogging are there?

There are two forms of aqua jogging. In variant 1, which is particularly recommended for seniors, the legs are in contact with the ground (water running). The training takes place in a pool with a water depth of less than 1.50 meters. The advantage: no tools are required. Important: With every step you push yourself off the bottom of the pool with the balls of your feet. Variant 2 involves training in deep water. (Suspended Deep Water Running) A foam belt provides buoyancy. Important: The upper body is bent slightly forward and the slightly bent arms swing loosely with the running movement. The basic rule for both forms of aqua jogging is: The higher the step frequency, the more strenuous but also more effective the training.

How many calories does aqua jogging burn?

On average, you burn 450 kilocalories during a one-hour aqua jogging training session. According to Froboese, that’s around 150 fewer than when cycling or running. The water pressure literally helps the aqua runner’s circulation. The effect: the heart can pump more oxygen-rich blood into the arteries with every single beat. The pulse remains in the moderate range.

Aqua jogging: how often and for how long?

Two to three sessions per week of 45 minutes each are recommended. Ideally under the guidance and supervision of a trainer. Many public baths and gyms with pools offer regular classes. You don’t need to bring more than swimwear. The foam belts are usually provided. If that’s not enough for you, you can buy the buoyancy aids yourself. Important: They should be infinitely adjustable and adapt to the body. Otherwise the belt will put too much pressure on the chest and interfere with breathing. In addition, belts and arms could get in each other’s way while running.

Sources: “Fit for fun”; “gesundheitswissen.de”; “aquatraining.de”; star special “Healthy living” (3/2004); “Runner’s World”

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