Pauline Ivens, water exercise instructor

choice for health and fitness. Water exercise classes are increasing at a rapid rate across the country, but it is still surprising how many people are unsure just what it is.

In swimming, the body moves horizontally in a streamline motion to cut through the water with speed and efficiency. In water exercise, the body stays vertical, intentionally engaging as much of the water’s resistance as possible for the hardest physical workout. It’s a simple equation – the water pushes back as hard as you push against it – making water exercise one of the most effective workouts for any age or fitness level.

Water’s resistance provides a tough workout for athletes who want to increase the volume of their training without increasing the risk of impact-related injuries. Water exercise is most popular with baby boomers, who are already regular exercisers, but need an environment that has less impact while still providing all the fitness components and benefits. The surrounding resistance and buoyant support are incredibly valuable to older adults who can improve their ability to perform daily tasks without the fear of falling.

Some people think water exercise is wimpy, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, one of the best things about water is that you can do cardiovascular training, strengthening and flexibility all at the same time! The powerful resistance overload provides for muscular conditioning, plus cardiovascular training by using vigorous lower body movements like water running. The level of immersion reduces impact on the joints without reducing the amount of effort you can put into the workout. The very popular deep-water classes become totally non-impact. The water is also very accommodating: it provides variable resistance so each person can modify the intensity of the workout to their own fitness level.

Is there a down side? You have to get wet! If you join a group exercise class, you want to get a good instructor. No one wants to exercise without getting results. Pauline Ivens, a national water exercise presenter and instructor trainer who lives on Oahu, says you need to look for classes taught by certified instructors. Like all branches of the fitness industry, water exercise also has national standards, and the minimum expectation is for an instructor to hold a fitness certification.

Ivens is currently providing the AEA (Aquatic Exercise Association) Aquatic Fitness Instructor Certification for instructors on Oahu, “I have discovered that many instructors are teaching without this minimum qualification, and that really risks the safety and effectiveness of the classes.”

Another difficulty is that many pools are not heated. The national guideline for water exercise classes set by AEA is 83-86 degrees. This is rarely available in unheated island pools. The working muscles need to maintain a certain temperature to cope safely with the overload of the workout. Cold muscles are much more prone to injury. Participants need to keep this in mind when looking for a suitable class.

There are classes everywhere! The Honolulu Club on Ward Avenue offers classes to its members on a weekly basis. The YMCA, many local hotels and the military bases all offer water exercise classes throughout the year.

Ivens is currently gathering information about all the water exercise opportunities on Oahu. She has launched the Hawaii Water Exercise Professional Network (HWEPN) to facilitate the education and training of island instructors. Water exercise is one of the fastest growing segments of the fitness industry, and Hawaii, with all its water facilities, has the potential to be an outstanding provider of this modality, both professionally, and for the general public.