Aqua walking: exercise, fun and connections

If you love the water and think exercise should be as much about fun as keeping fit, why not join a group of aqua walkers, joggers or an aqua aerobics class.

In New Plymouth, an aqua walkers’ class is held each Monday.

“Living on your own it really brightens your day,” says Gail, one of the group.

“It definitely makes you feel better in every way. To do this and be with everybody is really good.”

Another aqua walker Pam enjoys the way she feels after taking part.

“I think it’s fabulous and I feel much better since I started.”

Aqua walkers in the pool

The class was set up about a year ago by Age Concern Taranaki.

“The purpose of the program really was to help individuals get greater balance and greater body strength,” says its executive officer Gillian Goble.

“It’s fall prevention so they don’t fall over and break a bone and end up in hospital, and then perhaps end up in a rest home.

“It’s really enabling people to live in their own home and make their own choices.”

The group finds the class works their muscles and keeps them more agile.

“This uses all the muscle groups and it’s a good workout,” says Anne, another participant.

“I thoroughly enjoy it.”

Walkers can expect to get a little wetter than they may have planned.

“We have a couple of exercises where the water’s pushed from side to side with a hand and you can get quite exuberant doing that,” says Ms Goble, the class leader.

“Or it’s like hitting a big drum – your hands come from shoulder-height, down and around and back up.

“Only thing is when it comes back up, it’s like scooping a great handful of water and if everyone gets exuberant, it gets pushed back over onto the person next to you and so a few people get quite wet.

“It’s fun and it just adds to the morning so a few people get wet now and then but it’s expected.”

Forging bonds

It’s not just about the exercise, even if it is fun, but the social connections too which are equally important, believes Ms Goble.

“We have some music and it’s like a dance party in the pool.

“People have come along and they’ve enjoyed the exercises and got fit and really enjoyed being in the water but what we’ve found is that [they’ve] engaged with each other.

“They have begun to laugh and talk with each other and then cheek goes backwards and forwards, I facilitate that, and what has happened now is that great friendships have been forged between participants.”

The walkers are enthusiastic about the benefits.

“I look forward to coming every week. Everyone’s lovely,” says Hazel.

“A great group of people and a wonderful way to exercise,” says Patricia.

Aqua walkers in group out of water

Ms Goble says the class is a way to strengthen connections.

“They come and do the aqua walking for an hour or so, then have a soak in the spa pool for another half hour or so, then they go and have a coffee and then they go home.

“It’s just a great way to start the week – it’s on a Monday morning and so not only have we done falls prevention, we’re looking after their physical body, we’ve done social inclusion, it’s emotional and mental healing.

“It’s just wonderful, it’s been a great success.”

Those in the class agree.

“I’m feeling much fitter since coming to aqua and doing exercises. I’m walking better,” says Pam.

“Best time ever, yay!” says Desrae.

Contact your local pool to see if it holds classes in aqua walking, aqua jogging or aqua aerobics.