If extreme bike rides, years of competitive sport or other high-impact exercises have taken their toll on your body, then consider aqua cycling. This water-based exercise trend is showing up more and more in aquatic centres and now people's homes, worldwide.
In this article, we’ll dive into the incredible benefits of Aqua Cycling and find out why it’s not only great fun, but also a boost to overall health and well-being.
Aqua Cycling - What is it?
Aqua cycling is a cardiovascular exercise that blends the intensity and energy of cycling with the gentle, low-impact nature of underwater activity. With aqua cycling, instead of riding on land, you’re riding in the pool.
At its core, users ride on a specialised aqua bike called a Hydrorider submerged between 1.2 to 1.6 metres in the pool. The seats and handlebars are adjustable for optimum body alignment, while the pedals are usually equipped with straps to prevent slipping.
It's very different from land cycling, which uses levers and gears to control speed and resistance. An aqua bike utilises paddles and water resistance to give you a high intensity but low impact workout. As you pedal, the aqua bike's paddle flywheel and water resistance creates a progressively more intense workout that will challenge even the most experienced cyclists. The resistance scales with speed. The faster you pedal the more resistance you encounter.
Aqua Cycling was initially developed for physical rehabilitation
Water cycling is often used by patients undergoing physical rehabilitation due to its low-impact nature. While high-impact activities like running were demanding on your joints, aqua cycling offered minimal impact and negligible risk of strain. This was and still is ideal for people suffering from chronic pain and physical disabilities, helping to regain joint mobility and muscle strength without the physical trauma.
With that being said, aqua cycling has gone far beyond rehabilitation purposes. Now, it's a go-to exercise for people of all fitness levels. The resistance is scalable to speed, making it a challenge for novices and even seasoned athletes alike.
Given its low impact nature and the flexibility and muscle condition provided, aqua cycling is now being used by many in a preventative context. Some athletes, like the Australian Socceroos use it in their weekly program to help improve cardio endurance without causing injuries. It even contributes to preventing injuries by relaxing and stretching the muscles after and between matches.
Aqua Cycling at home? Is that a thing?
While aqua cycling workouts were often featured in aquatic centres or gyms, many people invested in their own aqua cycling bikes. It's relatively small and easy to move around, making it convenient to set up and store away. And while it comes with an initial price tag,, many have deemed the health benefits and convenience to be worth the investment.
12 Benefits of Aqua Cycling at home
Let’s go through the top 12 benefits of aqua cycling at home:
1. Aqua cycling is a low-impact exercise
Frequently performing high-impact exercises, whether jumping, running or sprinting, put a lot of stress on the joints and muscles.
When performing these exercises i.e. jumping, your joints must absorb the shock of movement when you hit the ground. Furthermore, many high-impact exercises involve repetitive motions, which lead to general wear or overuse injuries. For example, a tennis player might develop tennis elbow or a runner can experience shin splints or soreness in the knees.
You often see active ageing adults and athletes with knee, hip and back issues. As mentioned earlier, low impact exercise like Aqua Cycling can be introduced to help prevent these muscular skeletal issues from escalating.
So where does aqua cycling come in?
Aqua cycling puts minimal stress on the joints since you're not landing with full force like a high-impact exercise. Instead, you're cycling in water, which provides natural buoyancy and cushioning. This reduces the shock on your joints, and is generally safer for people with existing injuries or joint pain.
The water acts as a shock absorber and buffers the impact of every pedal stroke. And as you pedal faster, the water resistance increases and provides a challenging cardio workout that targets and strengthens your muscles. This hydrostatic pressure from the water can also soothe, stretch and relax your muscles and increase blood flow which reduces muscle soreness.
You'll see all the physical benefits of exercising without harming your body or aggravating an injury.
2. It can improve your Cardiovascular Health and fitness
When our movement is restricted, either from being busy at work, sidelined with an injury or illness or just hibernating on the couch in winter, our blood circulation becomes sluggish, and our arteries slowly clog up. Before you know it, you're struggling to catch air doing everyday activities. And if you do this long enough, you put yourself at risk of heart attack or stroke.
Aqua cycling at home is one way to reverse the adverse effects of a sedentary lifestyle. The cardiovascular benefits of Aqua Cycling are significant. As you cycle underwater, your heart rate increases, promoting better cardiovascular health and endurance. Regular Water Cycling in your pool at home can also reduce the risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure and improve overall cardiovascular fitness.
As you get on your bike and pedal away, your heart responds by pumping more blood with each beat. This improves blood flow ensures your muscles get those essential nutrients to repair faster. And as you get fitter and more toned, your body responds by reducing the amount of fat and cholesterol in your body. Overall, you'll have a healthier heart and improved cardiovascular health.
3. You can aqua cycle at home at anytime
Putting health benefits aside, let's get into the reasons why aqua cycling is so great for the home.
If there's one reason (or excuse) people use not to exercise, it's because they don't have the time. Whether it's due to their job, family or other responsibilities, people just can't find time to hit the gym.
Aqua cycling at home eliminates this problem as you can exercise in the comfort of your home, anytime. Feel like working out before work? No problem! What about right before bedtime? Well, whatever helps you sleep at night!
While many people swear by a traditional 'gym-time' that’s typically in the morning or after a set number of meals, many realize the value of just exercising when it suits them. Aqua cycling at home offers this freedom with no obstacles.
In addition to the physical benefits, many who work from home find water cycling a great way to improve both mental performance and productivity.
Just get your workout in, and you can return to your day more alert and healthier.
4. It's convenient
When you go to a gym or fitness class, you must get dressed, drive there, get changed and only then can you begin. Needless to say, preparing to travel to workout is time-consuming.
When you aqua cycle at home, you can literally wake up from bed, have a coffee and start exercising. All that's required is swimwear and aqua shoes, otherwise known as reef shoes. Plus, you don't even need to set aside a special hour of your day for it - just change and train.
Another layer of convenience is that it requires minimal set-up. If you have an aqua bike, simply move it into the pool, hop on, and start pedalling. After your workout, simply store it away.
5. You're training in a private place
Sometimes, the gym or any other training space can be intimidating. It can feel like all eyes are on you, especially if it's your first time there, or you are just getting back into it.
When you work out at home, you have the privacy and peace of mind to focus on your workout. And unless you create distractions, like constantly checking your phone or watching YouTube videos, you're probably going to focus exclusively on pedalling.
Meanwhile, a gym's atmosphere can be a distraction in itself, filled with chatter and music. If you're the kind of person who can easily lose focus in these environments, then try aqua cycling.
6. You can set your own pace
Your instructor generally sets the pace when you participate in group fitness class. They dictate when you need to ramp up the pace and when to slow down. If you don’t want to abide by the set routine or have a particular injury or illness, you may wish to train on your own terms.
At home, you set your own terms for your workout which can vary depending on your mood or energy levels. If you want to take it slow and steady, then you're free to do so. On the other hand, if your routine has become stale, you can always incorporate other elements, like interval training or sprints to create a high-intensity workout and challenge yourself.
Employing a slower workout pace is particularly useful on your rest days or a good complement to an intense training program. A recovery workout can help to improve blood circulation to your muscles, providing nutrients necessary for quicker repair and recovery. It can also reduce muscle stiffness, swelling and soreness associated with competitive sport, and hard gym workouts.
7. It's an amazing exercise to recover from injuries or chronic conditions
People with chronic conditions such as arthritis, joint pain, sciatica or lower back pain are the first to tell you that traditional exercises are tough. Even walking, considered a leisurely activity, becomes strenuous when you’re in constant pain. Similarly, with people suffering from injuries, every day activities can be a painful ordeal.
Aqua cycling is one rehabilitation exercise ideal for both chronic ailments and injuries. When you're underwater, you can extend your limbs further and easier, increasing range of motion and joint mobility. This is because the buoyancy of water supports body weight and lessens the load put on your muscles, spine and joints. It can even help resolve any muscle imbalances by strengthening your weaker muscles and restoring balance.
Remember that when submerged in the water, your body is significantly lighter (the more of the body submerged, the lighter and more buoyant), making it easier and more comfortable for you to move.
8. Say goodbye to gym memberships or class fees
The cost of pilates or or a gym membership certainly adds up over time, with Pilates ranging from $30-60 per session. And when 3+ sessions are required to meet Australian fitness and health exercise guidelines of 150-200 minutes of exercise a week, it all adds up.
Now you add petrol, parking fees, and the time spent driving to and from the gym, and you’re looking at even more money wasted. Sure, you can drive to the class after work on your way home, but you'll still need to pay for the session.
Investing in an aqua cycling bike is an investment. A good aqua bike, like the hydrorider, may set you back $2000-$3000, but it pays itself off when you're cycling for years at home. You'll save on petrol, time and money that would otherwise have been spent commuting back and forth.
If you're hunting for an aqua bike, a paddle flywheel is a must. This feature allows for resistance adjustments, providing a more personalised workout that lets you progress faster. For more information on which aqua bike would suit you, check out our guide on the best aqua cycling bikes.
9. Increased calorie burn compared to land exercises
Did you know aqua cycling can burn up to 800 calories in a 45-minute session? Of course, your workout intensity, weight and other factors affect your calorie burn, but it's still significantly higher than many land exercises. For example, a person riding a stationary bike at a moderate pace only burns between 413-572 calories per hour.
Aqua cycling and other water exercises burn more calories because of the water's high resistance. Moving through air is more effortless than water as your body doesn't have to work as hard to traverse through space. The water increases the strain on your muscles and makes for a more effective workout, meaning more calories are burned.
Another reason you burn more calories is because of the exercise’s constant movement. Since you're pedalling non-stop, your heart rate keeps elevated the whole time. This helps you build endurance, strength and burn more calories in the process.
10. You get a full body workout
Contrary to what many believe, aqua cycling isn't exclusive to lower body training. When you're aqua cycling, your arms, shoulders and core muscles must all engage to stabilise your body in the water and in various positions on the bike.
Training major muscle groups is even more pronounced in the water as water is denser and harder to move than air. The water's movement causes your body to sway back and forth, forcing you to work harder just to stay stable on the bike. This means that besides burning calories, you're also building strength and endurance in your arms, shoulders and core.
Additionally, you can diversify your workouts to better engage your upper body. For example, you can perform one-armed freestyle strokes while pedalling or use resistance bands to perform arm curls. These exercises will help you develop specific body parts, allowing you to build a more balanced, and aesthetic physique.
11. It helps with weight management
Much like high-impact activities, your body weight puts pressure on your joints, making it harder to exercise. So the heavier you are, the more weight your joints must carry and the more difficult it is to move.
The good news is aqua cycling is highly efficient at shedding off pounds. As mentioned, you typically burn more calories per hour than land exercises due to the water's resistance. This means you can get more bang for your buck in less time.
Aqua cycling also significantly induces muscular hypertrophy if you’re train intensely enough. So when combined with a calorie deficit, you'll build muscle and lose fat simultaneously - a surefire way to reach your weight goal faster!
12. It reduces stress levels and boosts self esteem
Whenever we engage in physical activities, our body releases endorphins that trigger a positive feeling in the brain. These help to negate the feelings of stress, anxiety, depression and even improves sleep quality. Plus, the water itself is therapeutic to many, which helps reduce stress naturally.
Aqua cycling is just one of many water exercises that release these hormones. Simply put, it's a great way to help relax after a long day.
Beyond diminishing stress levels, aqua cycling can also enhance our self-perception, encouraging us to view ourselves more positively. As you become stronger and leaner, your physique will transform into something you can be proud of. Even if the changes are only minor, you’ve accomplished something!
Lastly, the functional strength and muscular endurance gained from this exercise also crosses over into daily life. Activities like carrying groceries, lifting boxes or running errands will feel like a breeze compared to before.
With all of these physical and mental improvements, aqua cycling is a sure-fire way of skyrocketing your confidence and overall self-esteem.
Why Aqua Cycle from home
Anyone with health and fitness goals or looking to push their limits and challenge themselves without damaging their body should give aqua cycling a try.
The benefits of aqua cycling both physiologically and psychologically are compelling. Aqua cycling in your pool at home offers much more than just a refreshing dip. It is a holistic experience that provides numerous benefits for health fitness and overall well-being. From natural full-body exercise to stress-relieving effects and reducing weight, Aqua cycling in your backyard pool is a boon to overall health. Use your pool for more, and reap the amazing health benefits cycling underwater can offer. Immerse yourself in the water and let the pool transform your health and well-being.