Is Aquatic Exercise a Fitness Trend?

Choosing An Aquafit Class for You |

Every year the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) does an international survey to determine the health and fitness trends for the coming year. Respondents to the survey come from a variety of health and fitness professions, including personal trainers, medical professionals, exercise physiologists, professors, health and wellness coaches and a few group exercise instructors. Here are the top twenty fitness trends:

  1. Wearable technology (fitness trackers, smart watches, heart rate monitors, etc.) This has been in the top 3 since 2016.
  2. Home exercise gyms. These became popular because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  3. Outdoor activities. Also popular because of COVID-19.
  4. Strength training with free weights.
  5. Exercise for weight loss. This increased in popularity because of perceived (or real) weight gain during quarantine.
  6. Personal training.
  7. High intensity interval training.
  8. Body weight training. This includes things like push-ups, burpees, and planks.
  9. On-line live and on-demand exercise classes. This was the number one trend last year, but dropped to number 9 as gyms re-opened.
  10. Health and wellness coaching.
  11. Fitness programs for older adults.
  12. Exercise is medicine. Doctors referring patients to fitness professionals appeared as a trend 2017.
  13. Employing certified fitness professionals.
  14. Functional fitness. This involves strength training to improve the activities of daily living.
  15. Yoga. This includes a wide variety of Yoga styles.
  16. Mobile exercise apps.
  17. Online personal training. This refers to one-on-one sessions, as opposed to online group exercise classes.
  18. Licensure for fitness professionals. This is a trend to pursue regulation of fitness professionals.
  19. Lifestyle medicine. This is the practice of helping individuals and families adopt healthy behaviors for life.
  20. Group exercise training. This dropped dramatically in popularity because of COVID-19.

Aquatic exercise is not included among the trends! That is probably because the American College of Sports Medicine is not involved in aquatics. But as anyone who has recently checked out a pool schedule knows, aquatic exercise classes are on the menu. Water fitness participants were among the first to return to their workouts after lockdowns were lifted, possibly because chlorinated water is known to kill the Coronavirus, as confirmed by a 2021 study in the U.K.

So, what are the fitness trends in aquatics? I decided to do an informal survey by checking out the classes at the International Aquatic Fitness Conference (IAFC) being held May 1-6 at Daytona Beach, Florida and Florida Mania Fitness Pro Convention being held May 20-22 at Orlando, Florida. IAFC has presenters and participants from around the world. Florida Mania is one of seven conventions for personal trainers and group exercise instructors in various cities in the United States. If I understood the class descriptions correctly, the most frequent sessions on the schedule for these two events were:

  1. Strength training – 11 sessions at IAFC and 2 at Mania
  2. Interval training – 8 sessions at IAFC and one at Mania
  3. Cardio – 5 sessions at IAFC and 4 at Mania
  4. Functional fitness – 7 sessions at IAFC and 2 at Mania
  5. Mind-body exercise (Yoga and Pilates) – 8 sessions at IAFC

There were also 2-3 sessions each on Zumba, Barre, Combat, Circuits and a combination of swimming and water exercise. Other topics covered include water walking, choreography, multi-depth classes, ballet, Ai Chi, pelvic floor, core, post natal, cognition and stretching. There are always sessions on various kinds of aquatic equipment to give participants an opportunity to try them out. Some of these are adapted from land fitness classes:

  1. Hydrorider (aquatic bicycle) is the most popular with 7 sessions at IAFC.
  2. Aqua Pole – 3 sessions at IAFC and 2 at Mania
  3. Noodles remain popular with 4 sessions at IAFC
  4. Trampoline – 3 sessions at IAFC
  5. Aqua Drum Vibes – 3 sessions at IAFC
  6. Aqua Board – one session at IAFC (participants exercise on a board that floats on top of the water)
  7. Bands – one session at IAFC
  8. Aqua Ohm – one session at IAFC
  9. Liquid Star – one session at Mania

This gives you an idea of the wide variety of options for an aquatic fitness class. Maybe some day aquatic fitness will be included in ACSM’s list of top twenty fitness trends.

See you in the pool!

Author/Instructor Photo
Chris Alexander

Aquatic Fitness Resources

Whether you teach water fitness classes, work as an aquatic therapist, or attend a class or session as a participant, there are certain things that you need to have. Instructors need certifications, continuing education, and sometimes help with lesson planning. Everyone needs swimwear and shoes they can wear in the pool. Fitness equipment designed for the aquatic environment is a must. Music is a great motivator used in many classes. The purpose of this article is to provide you with information and reviews for a variety of these resources as well as links to websites where you can purchase them.


Ruth Sova

The Aquatic Exercise Association (AEA) was founded by Ruth Sova who then went on to found the Aquatic Therapy and Rehab Institute (ATRI). The two organizations recently merged. AEA’s certification is accepted in many countries around the world. AEA recommends that you get at least 6 months experience before applying for the certification. Their Aquatic Fitness Professional Manual costs $68. Their online exam is $165. The optional (but highly recommended) online prep course is $209. The certification is good for 2 years. A minimum of 15 continuing education credits (CECs) is required to renew. ATRI offers a certification for people interested in aquatic therapy, rehab and therapeutic exercise. AEA members get Akwa magazine, with excellent articles on aquatic fitness. You don’t need an AEA certification to become a member.

John Spannuth

The United States Water Fitness Association (USWFA) was founded by John Spannuth. It was the first organization to offer a certification for water fitness instructors. The certification is a home study course, costing $277. When you sign up, they send you the National Water Fitness Instructors Manual, an open book test and some forms to fill out. You have to teach a section of an experienced instructor’s class and then both of you fill out an evaluation. The certification is good for 3 years. You take another open book test to renew. The USWFA offers additional certifications: the Aquatic Directors certification, the Deep Water certification, the Aquatic Fitness Personal Trainers certification, the Aquatic Wellness Coach certification, and the Water Walking Instructors certification. The Aquatic Directors manual addresses the issues facing aquatic facilities in the post-pandemic period.

Sara Kooperman

SCW was founded by Sara Kooperman as a series of Mania fitness pro conventions in the Midwest, Dallas, Boston, D.C., California, Florida and Atlanta. The conventions offer continuing education training for land fitness instructors and personal trainers as well as aquatic fitness instructors. SCW expanded to offer certifications in Aquatic Exercise, Group Exercise, Personal Training, Active Aging and many more. The Aquatic Exercise certification is an online course costing $199. It is good for 2 years and requires 20 CECs to renew. SCW created WaterinMotion, a pre-choreographed, quarterly-released group exercise program that refreshes the moves and music every 3 months. You can also sign up on the SCW website for free webinars, Spotlite e-news, and Tidal Waves e-news.

Other organizations that offer certifications which are less well known are Aquatic & Fitness Professionals and WaterART. Zumba offers an aquatic Zumba certification.

Continuing Education

AEA offers both in person and online continuing education. The International Aquatic Fitness Conference (IAFC) is held in May and they offer CEC trainings in locations around the country. Check their website for a calendar of events. In addition to their Mania fitness pro conventions, SCW offers CEC video courses in the SCW Store on their website. Laurie Denomme has created a Water Exercise Coach program that teaches you how to lead workouts to get your students results. Exercise Etc. Inc. offers online education on a variety of fitness topics. It’s an easy way to collect the last few CECs needed to renew a certification. Mark Grevelding founded Fitmotivation, an aquatic video streaming service. The basic plan costs $14.95 a month, and the premium plan costs $24.95 a month. Two or three new videos are added every month. Some of the videos include AEA online quizzes worth continuing education credits that you can take for $20 with the basic plan or $10 with the premium plan. If you just want to stream videos to work out in your backyard pool, Mark offers a program for that too, Pool Fit.


Some people like having a book to refer to when they need ideas. I wrote 2 books on water exercise each published by Human Kinetics. Water Fitness Lesson Plans and Choreography (2011) was written for water fitness instructors. It has 36 class ideas for shallow water exercise and 36 ideas for deep water exercise. Individuals may find the exercise descriptions and photos in Chapter 2 and Chapter 5 useful for building a personal exercise routine. Water Fitness Progressions (2019) was written for water fitness instructors and aquatic personal trainers. It describes how to use periodization to help class participants and clients progress in their level of fitness. It contains lesson plans that illustrate how to progressively increase intensity for both cardiorespiratory endurance and strength training. Gregory James Keyes has written Aqua-I-Cue: The Quintessential Aquatic Exercise Sports Science Reference Manual, which offers a wealth of information covering topics found in certification manuals and much more. It is available as a download on Amazon.


Your swimsuit is your most basic piece of aquatic fitness equipment, and there are many websites where you can order them. These include, in alphabetical order: D&J Sports, Dolfin, H20 Wear, Kiefer, Lands End, Speedo, Splash International, Swim and Sweat, Swim Outlet, SwimSuits for All, TYR, and Xtreme Swim. H20 Wear has been making the longest-lasting, chlorine-resistant swimwear available for 33 years, and they also sell apparel and water shoes. SwimSuits for All sells swimsuits for a variety of body types. TYR makes swim jammers for men. For a review of the 20 best athletic and sporty swimsuits that are flattering and functional for women, published in May 2021, check out And for men, Sports Fitness Advisor wrote a review of swim jammers in August 2021.

Water Fitness Shoes

One of the best known women’s shoe for water fitness is made by Ryka. They are designed specifically for a woman’s foot. But men are taking water fitness classes too, and there are many companies that make water fitness shoes. Shoes Grow – Step Up in Life posted an article called The Best Shoes for Water Aerobics. Another review of water shoes was posted by Surfango.

Aquatic Fitness Equipment

Foam dumbbells, pool noodles, drag equipment, and deep-water belts are some of the types of equipment made for aquatic exercise and aquatic therapy. Craig Stuart was the first to make foam dumbbells, starting Hydro-Fit to sell them. Hydro-Fit also makes webbed gloves, pool noodles, deep-water belts, cuffs, apparel, and equipment for aquatic therapy. I have to admit that I am a big fan of Hydro-Fit. I am especially fond of the webbed gloves. Everything I have purchased from them is of good quality, and lasts a long time. The only place to buy Hydro-Fit products is from their website. Drag equipment is a good training choice, and the drag equipment I like best, other than webbed gloves, are Aqualogix bells. Aqualogix also makes fins to increase drag resistance on the legs. Another interesting type of drag equipment is the Aqua-Ohm, created by Irene and Marco, a couple of aquatic physical therapists. Other sellers of aquatic fitness equipment are, in alphabetical order: Aquajogger, Hydro-Tone, Sprint Aquatics, Water Fit, Theraquatics, and Water Gear. Some of the websites that sell swimsuits also sell equipment, including D&J Sports, Kiefer, Splash International, Swim Outlet, and Xtreme Swim. Best Reviews posted an article in September 2021 on their picks for the 5 Best Aquatic Dumbbells. You might also want to check out the post in Your Swim Book on the Five Best Pieces of Water Exercise Equipment for Crushing Your Pool Workouts.


Many people wouldn’t think of exercising without music! If you are teaching a class, you want to use music created especially for fitness classes, using the appropriate beats per minute. Yes Fitness Music lets you purchase individual playlists, or you can have unlimited access to their entire fitness music library with a Yes!Go Subscription plan, costing $149.95 for a year or $14.95 a month. Dynamix offers pre-mixed albums or you can create your own custom downloads. Fit Mix Pro offers custom mixes only. Muscle Mixes Music and Power Music offer pre-mixed playlists. If you are interested in a microphone, the only waterproof mic on the market is the Evo sound system available at Special Projects Audio by Galaxy.

If I missed one of your favorite vendors, put a comment at the bottom of this article. See you in the pool!

Author/Instructor Photo
Chris Alexander

Why Do You Need Continuing Education?



I attended the International Aquatic Fitness Conference recently where I earned 26 continuing education credits. That’s a lot of time spent in swimming pools and lectures! I’m a huge believer in continuing education. When I first started teaching water fitness I had one great lesson plan. Without continuing education I might still be stuck with that one lesson plan. Continuing education is invaluable for giving you new ideas to keep your classes fresh.

All presenters have their own unique styles. Some of my favorite presenters are pictured here. Ruth Sova is the founder of the Aquatic Exercise Association. After she got AEA going, she left to start the Aquatic Therapy and Rehab Institute (ATRI). Performing Ai Chi with Ruth and Jun Konno, who invented Ai Chi, first thing in the morning was one of the pleasures of the conference. Mark Grevelding is known for his choreography, which has evolved over the years as he is now working mostly with seniors. The international presenters, such as Elson dos Santos have unique high energy techniques. Terri Mitchell had a workshop on stretching which filled up as soon as conference registration opened, so I was not able to get in. Lucky for me, she is coming to this area for a MAAP event in September. I love hearing about the latest research in fitness, so I always sign up for a lecture by Len Kravitz when I attend a conference. He is an author, educator working with graduate students, researcher and exercise scientist at the University of New Mexico. When you attend continuing education you come away with new choreography, new teaching techniques, and new research which makes you a better instructor.

You can also learn about new kinds of equipment that is available for water fitness. Lynda Huey used Aqualogix bells and fins in her class on post rehab fitness. The bells offered excellent drag resistance. The fins were surprisingly easy to put on and use. You might also learn new ways to use old pieces of equipment. Marietta Mehanni used kickboards in a totally new and creative way in her session.

AquapoleOne piece of equipment that I was curious about is the AquaPole. It has a heavy base that anchors the pole in the water. We used the pole to perform suspended exercises in Brown and Johnson’s AquaPole Strength and Toning class, but you can also attach resistance bands or a boxing bag to it. I may never have the opportunity to use the equipment again, but it was fun to try it out.

Networking is another reason to attend continuing education. At IAFC we got to meet people from all over the world, not only the presenters, but also the delegates. The first question we always asked each other was “what is your name” and the second one was “where are you from.” At the end of each class, all the participants gathered at the edge of the pool for a photo with the presenter.

IAFC had a Marketplace where you could buy music, equipment, swim suits, T-shirts, shampoo for getting the chlorine out of your hair and lots of other things. I got to meet the person who invented the Aqua-Ohm, a piece of drag equipment we recently got at Oak Point Recreation Center where I teach classes. I was also pleasantly surprised to see that Ruth Sova had a copy of my book, Water Fitness Progressions, at the ATRI booth. She said it was an excellent book, which is high praise indeed, coming from her!

It is my hope that fitness instructors will take advantage of opportunities to get continuing education. Dallas Mania is coming to the Fairmont Hotel in August, and MAAP is hosting Terri Mitchell in September. For more information on these events, check out the MAAP website at

See you in the pool!


Chris Alexander