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Calories Burned Doing Water Aerobics

By Viola Horne

Water aerobics can be done anywhere there is a pool. Water exercise combines the heart-healthy benefits of aerobics with the gentleness of water for an exercise program that offers the perks without the pain.

Because it is easy on the joints and skeletal structure, water aerobics is excellent exercise for people of any age, size or fitness level, and can be undertaken by swimmers and non-swimmers alike. Water aerobics can burn a substantial number of calories.

Water Aerobics

Water aerobics classes are generally offered through a gym with a pool like the YMCA. Water aerobics instructors are highly trained and must be certified. The instructor starts by getting everyone in waist-deep water. She will start out with very low-impact warm-up, such as jogging in place. She will increase the intensity and speed of the exercises for about 30 minutes of actual aerobic activity. She will then guide the class through a series of cool-down exercises and stretches. Some instructors add strength training work to the class.

Calories are Burned During Water Aerobics

While intensity can be varied by the participant, the Activity Profile of NutriStrategy Nutrition and Fitness Software calculates that most water aerobics classes enable the student to burn about 236 calories per hour if the student is a female weighing approximately 130 lbs. If she weighs 155 lbs., she can burn about 281 calories, and if she is closer to 190 lbs., she can expect to burn about 345 for an hour workout.

The calorie differences are due to the fact that it takes more energy to push a larger mass through water. Thus, a 125-lb. woman wouldn't require the same number of calories to push her weight through water as a 190-lb. woman would require for her weight.

Increasing Calorie Burn During Water Aerobics

To increase caloric burn, the student can increase the intensity of the exercise for short periods of the class. According to an article published in the 2009 International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education, if the class is jogging in place at a rate considered "somewhat hard," increasing the rate to a speed considered "very hard" creates an interval workout, meaning there are periods of intense exercise interspersed with regular aerobic activity. Interval training increases the amount of energy spent and can speed weight loss.


There are very few health drawbacks to performing water aerobics. The buoyancy of the water protects joints and ligaments from harsh impact, and most people find water to enhance feelings of well-being. Even the very frail and the very obese can get adequate exercise with the protection of water. The only drawbacks might be the slower rate of weight loss when compared to other aerobic-type activities and a fear of water in some individuals. As always, consult a doctor before attempting any weight loss or exercise program.


Water aerobics classes can vary in intensity of workout and feelings of community. Some instructors encourage the class to bond with each other by using their names and allowing conversation during class. Other teachers discourage conversation and require the class to focus on the instruction. For many people, especially the elderly, the sense of community and connection is just as important as the exercise. Try different classes to find one that fits your individual need.

Working out with a buddy helps maintain accountability. Find someone else who could use the exercise and begin the program together.

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