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Aqua Pilates converts mat-based Pilates and reformer Pilates exercises into pool-based exercises. It is similar to traditional Pilates, because it works to lengthen the body and increase abdominal and back strength. Like traditional Pilates, it also is helpful for adopting better posture and balance. It is most beneficial for people who are affected by health ailments that prevent the use of mats or reformers, such as arthritis, scoliosis and chronic obesity. In most cases, very few pieces of equipment are needed for aqua Pilates.
With aqua Pilates, water and the body’s own muscles provide the resistance necessary to receive a full-body workout. The water also allows people to focus on the fluidity of their motions and gives them a feeling of gracefulness. By feeling fluid and graceful, participants can improve their body image, their mental outlook and their emotional psyche.
The only truly mandatory piece of equipment for aqua Pilates is a swimming pool. Some exercises may require the use of a pool noodle. In addition, people looking for a more strenuous workout may use gloves that are webbed to tone their arms and shoulders. They also may use leg cuffs to strengthen their leg muscles. Water shoes are not necessary, but some people find that they prevent slipping.
In some cases, a Pilates mat-based exercise such as "the 100" is adapted for a pool setting. In that case, a person would wrap a noodle around the lower section of his or her rib cage. He or she would then fold the body into a V-shape with the buttocks pointed toward the bottom of the pool. The next step would be to maintain the shape of the “V” while pulsating the arms up and down 100 times. This is done while suspended by the noodle in the pool.
Other aqua Pilates moves are less derivative of traditional Pilates. For example, a common aqua Pilates move is to suspend the body, parallel to the pool floor, while holding the pool noodle. More advanced moves may incorporate stretches, twists and splits. Most of these moves are slow, fluid and very deliberate. By calling on balance in the body, the abdominal and back muscles become stronger.
Some aquatic centers and fitness centers offer aqua Pilates. In addition, DVDs are available so people can learn and perhaps memorize exercises or full routines. As with traditional Pilates, certification is available for instructors. To prevent injury, it is best to find a certified instructor who is confident in aqua Pilates. Any injuries should be addressed before beginning the program, and the participant should cease this form of exercise if there is any pain associated with the workout.