Is Aquatic Exercise a Fitness Trend?

Choosing An Aquafit Class for You | Fix.com

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

What Should a Water Fitness Instructor Know?

If you ask most people what a water fitness instructor should know, they would probably say pool exercises. While that is true, there is so much more to teaching a water fitness class than just knowing a variety of exercises. I teach a class for beginning water fitness instructors. While the class does not give participants a national certification, it does provide them with the basics to get them started and will help them prepare for getting certified later on. My next Beginning Water Fitness Instructor class will be October 9 and 16, 2021 from 10:00 AM – 2:30 PM at the McKinney Senior Pool in McKinney, Texas. Participants need to attend both Saturdays. Here is a sample of what I want them to learn:

Best Abdominal Muscle Illustrations, Royalty-Free Vector ...

It’s important to know the names of the muscles and what they do. What muscles are you using when you clap hands, push forward, do a side bend, kick backward, or do jumping jacks? You need to be aware of what muscles you are using when you plan your classes so that you don’t end up working the pectoralis major, triceps and quadriceps while leaving out the trapezius, gluteus maximus and hamstrings for an unbalanced workout. You need to know movement terms like flexion, extension, abduction and adduction, because different instructors use different names for the same exercises, but if you know the scientific name for the exercise you will know exactly what the exercise is.

Water fitness classes take place in water which is much different from classes on land. The properties of water offer many benefits. Buoyancy offloads the joints. Resistance promotes muscle balance. Hydrostatic pressure increases the stroke volume and cardiac output of the heart. If you understand Newton’s Laws of Motion, you can use them to your advantage. Make use of Newton’s First Law: Inertia by changing the direction of travel. Make use of Newton’s Law of Acceleration by using more force when pushing against the water. Make use of Newton’s Third Law: Action and Reaction by using impeding arms or legs. You need to know how to increase intensity to make the exercises harder. For example, you can increase the range of motion, increase the speed, add power or travel. You also need to know how to decrease intensity. You can slow the moves down, substitute a different move with shorter levers, or slice with the hands instead of cupping them.

Water fitness equipment is very popular, and it is important to know how to use the equipment that is available to you. Buoyant equipment, such as noodles and foam dumbbells float. That means they offer resistance only when pushing them down toward the pool floor. Drag equipment, such as paddles, provide resistance in any direction.

Then of course you do have to know a variety of exercises. It might surprise you to know that there are only seven basic shallow water exercises: walk, jog, kick, rocking horse, cross-country ski, and jumping jacks. All the other exercises are variations of these six. For example, you can take the basic exercise and change the arm movements; change the foot positions; work the move forward, sideways or backward; cross the midline; change the working position; or change the tempo. You can organize the exercises in many ways. Organizing the exercises into a lesson plan is writing choreography. There are a number of choreography styles that can help you do this. There is linear choreography, pyramid choreography, add-on choreography, the layer technique, and block choreography. Of course you want to put your choreography to music. Copyright laws prevent you from making playlists from your favorite musicians. Instead, buy your music from businesses that produce music specifically for fitness classes. For more information on teaching water fitness classes, see my books Water Fitness Progressions and Water Fitness Lesson Plans and Choreography..

If you would like to take the course you can register at https://webtrac.mckinneytexas.org/wbwsc/webtrac.wsc/wb1000.html?wbp=1 You will have to create an account with the McKinney Parks and Recreation Department. For assistance in creating an account, call the McKinney Senior Pool at 972-547-7947. Search for the class by using the Activity Number 303191. From there, add the class to your cart (the small cart icon on the left) and complete payment. In-person registration is available at the Senior Pool at 1400 College St. in McKinney. For more information on the class, see page 14 of the Fall Activity Guide https://www.mckinneytexas.org/DocumentCenter/View/27936/Activity-Guide-PR-Fall-2021

See you in the pool!

Author/Instructor Photo
Chris Alexander

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Keep Your Muscle Mass

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Your muscles grow until around age 30 and after that they begin to decline. If nothing is done to prevent this loss of muscle mass, the end result is loss of grip strength, difficulty picking up heavier objects, trouble rising out of a chair, and an inability to get up off the floor. Who wants that?? The good news is that loss of muscle mass in not an inevitable part of aging. Like the saying goes, use it or lose it! Using it means strength training.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that every adult perform activities that maintain or increase muscular strength and endurance for a minimum of two days a week. Adults over 65 should strength train two to three times a week. In other words, the older you get the more important strength training becomes.

You can strength train at home using bands. You can perform exercises that use your own body weight such as push ups, planks and wall sits. You can go to a gym and use free weights or weight machines. Most gyms have someone on staff who can show you how to use the weight machines. Or you can hire a personal trainer who can design a personalized strength training program. Ideally you will mix things up and do a variety of strength training routines. Lift the weight quickly but take 3-5 seconds to lower it. Choose 8 to 10 exercises targeting the major upper body, mid body and lower body muscle groups. Healthy adults should do 8-12 repetitions of each exercise with a weight heavy enough to be challenging but not so heavy that you have to strain to lift it. Older adults should do 10-15 repetitions using lighter weights.

You can also do your strength training in the pool. This requires some effort on your part. It is possible to do the exercises in your water fitness class by gently moving through the water, slicing your hand to minimize the resistance, possibly chatting with other exercisers at the same time. There may be benefits to this, but improving strength is not one of them. Instead of slicing, move your fist through the water, or even better, present an open hand with the fingers slightly cupped. Push hard against the water, with as much speed and power as you can. The harder you push, the harder the water pushes back. You want to create turbulence, making white water and waves. This kind of effort requires concentration but it is necessary to overload the muscles so that you can see gains in strength.

Equipment can be added to increase the resistance in water. Choose equipment that you can handle while maintaining good alignment. Then push and pull the equipment through the water with speed and power. Drag equipment, which does not float, can be pushed and pulled in any direction. Buoyant equipment, which floats, needs to be pushed toward the pool floor in order to be effective. The turbulence and waves you create with the equipment lets you know that you are overloading your muscles and improving your muscular strength and endurance.

There are other benefits to strength training. Improving your muscular strength and endurance can help prevent osteoporosis, decrease the risk of heart disease, reduce the risk of falling, and enhance the quality of life. It can postpone the day when you become frail to some time in the distant future. And that’s a very good thing! For more information and lesson plans that have strength training as their objective, see my book Water Fitness Progressions.

See you in the pool!

Chris Alexander

Water Exercise Resources

Water fitness instructors need resources in order to teach their classes. It would be nice if there was a single website where we could go to find all the resources we need. Well, there is! It is https://maapdfw.com the website of the Metroplex Association of Aquatic Professionals. This is an organization of water fitness instructors in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. If you live in this area your membership entitles you to free Master Workouts and discounted Continuing Education Training. But even if you don’t live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the Resources page has links to everything you might need to be successful as an instructor.

First of all you need a certification. The Aquatic Exercise Association has updated their certification so that it can now be completed online. If you join AEA you get access to the members only section of their website and you get a print or an online version of Akwa magazine which has articles written by aquatic professionals from around the world. My articles appear in the magazine a couple of times a year. https://www.aeawave.com/

The United States Water Fitness Association also offers a water fitness instructor certification. They send you study materials and an open book test which you complete and mail back. In addition they offer Aquatic Fitness Personal Trainer, Aquatic Wellness Coach, Aquatic Director certifications and more. http://www.uswfa.com/

A third organization which offers a variety of certifications is SCW. Most of the certifications are for land based exercise but they do have an Aquatic Exercise and an Aqua Barre certification. The certifications are online but they include a live course at a Mania convention for free. There are Mania conventions in California, Florida, Atlanta, Dallas, Philadelphia, the Midwest, Boston, DC and New York City. http://scwfit.com/

Once you get a certification, you’ll want some resources to help you plan your classes. Water Fitness Progressions (2019) and Water Fitness Lesson Plans and Choreography (2011) by Christine Alexander are my two books published by Human Kinetics. They contain lesson plan ideas for many types of aquatic fitness classes. Water Fitness Lesson Plans and Choreography has 36 shallow-water lesson plans and 36 deep-water lesson plans. Water Fitness Progressions shows how to add intervals to a lesson plan and then progress the intensity from easy to moderate to HIIT. In addition there are strength training lesson plans that progress from using the water’s resistance to using various types of equipment. You can buy the books from the publisher (click on the name of the book above) or from Amazon.com.

Of course you’ll need a professional looking swim suit and water shoes. In the area north of Dallas we can go to Xtreme Swim to look for swimwear. There are lots of places to shop online as well, such as Dolfin Swimwear, H20Wear, Speedo, and Swimsuits for All. Some vendors offer discounts for AEA members or water fitness instructors that you can pass on to your class participants. The swimsuits that last the longest are made of polyester. For those who don’t like or can’t wear polyester there is a new fabric, Xtra Life Lycra, which is supposed to rival polyester for durability. Choose well-fitting, supportive water shoes that you can use to teach on the deck or wear in the water.

This is only a sample of the links you will find a https://maapdfw.com There are links to National Aquatic Organizations, Greg Keyes’ new book Aqua-I-Cue, the streaming videos at Fitmotivation, places that sell shoes and apparel, online stores for aquatic equipment including sound systems, locations to download music for your classes, and websites where you can find online continuing education.

Check it out! See you in the pool!

Chris Alexander

Holiday Ideas for Your Class

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There is a lot to do during the holiday season: shopping, wrapping presents, decorating, baking, holiday parties and more. You know your water fitness class participants need to maintain their exercise routine to help them manage the holiday stress, but sometimes exercise moves near the bottom of their priority list. Try some of the following ideas to make your water fitness class more festive and encourage everyone to keep coming:

Holiday Music. Break out some holiday music to get everyone in a festive mood. All the fitness music companies have Christmas music playlists for sale. Check out:

(1) Super Happy Xmas Step (128-130 BPM) and Xmas Buzz (135 BPM) at Yes Fitness Music www.yesfitnessmusic.com.

(2) Tis The Season – Best of Christmas Hits Remixed (130 BPM) and Christmas Hits Remixed (135 BPM) at Power Music www.powermusic.com.

(3) Core Christmas Volume 2 (128 BPM) and Christmas in Motion 3 (135 BPM) at Muscle Mixes www.musclemixes.com.

Holiday Themed Games and Activities. Add fun activities at the end of your fitness routine to have everyone laughing and looking forward to the next class. Here are two ideas:

(1) Holiday Obstacle Course – Create an obstacle course with the pool equipment you have on hand, giving it a holiday theme. Station One: Have a participant begin by cross-country skiing to the North Pole, using either drag equipment or foam dumbbells. Station Two: Tie 3 noodles in a triangle to serve as a Christmas tree and have a bucket of small balls nearby. The participant throws the balls into the triangle to “decorate the tree.” Station Three: The participant picks up a paddle or a foam dumbbell and uses it to “stir up the Christmas cookie dough.” Station Four: The participant runs to 3 “elves” who are holding 3 balls. The participant helps in the toy shop by tossing the balls a set number of times back and forth to each elf. Station Five: The participant picks up 2 noodles and puts the ends of each noodle under an arm with the opposite ends sticking out in back. “Santa grabs the free ends and takes a seated position. The participant now takes the place of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and pulls Santa’s sleigh to the finish line. If your class is large, half of the participants can man the stations while the other half runs through the obstacle course; then the two groups
change places. If your class is small, have all your participants (but one) man the stations while the “contestant” runs the course. Then that person will take the place of another participant who will take a turn running the course.

(2) Sleigh Races – Have your class members partner up. One partner can be Rudolph and the other Santa. Rudolph then pulls the sleigh as in the obstacle course above, racing with all the other sleighs in the class. After one team wins the race, Rudolph will take a turn being Santa, and Santa will become Rudolph, and the teams race again.

Costumes. This is the perfect time to wear your red swim suit, a Santa hat, a Frosty the Snowman top hat, a red nose or a hat with reindeer antlers.

Holiday Gifts. Show your appreciation for your class by giving them each a small gift. If you are an H20 Wear AquaPRO, you can get coupons for your participants worth 10% off their first purchase of a swim suit. Contact them at H20_mail@h2owear.com to request coupons or to become an AquaPRO member. Some other gift ideas include a Clementine tangerine, a tree ornament, a peppermint candy cane, a Christmas cookie, a package of hot cocoa mix or some kind of homemade goodie. Here is an easy recipe if you would like to make your own treats:

Peppermint Crunch Puppy Chow

Ingredients: 5 cups Rice Chex, 10 ounces melting white chocolate, 1 cup crushed candy canes, 1 cup confectioners’ sugar

Pour the cereal into a large bowl. Melt white chocolate according to the package directions. Pour melted chocolate over cereal, stirring and folding until the cereal is completely covered. Fold in crushed candy canes.

Pour the confectioners’ sugar into a zipped-top bag. Pour the cereal mix in next. Seal the bag and shake until all the cereal is coated with the confectioners’ sugar. Discard excess powdered sugar.

Divide the puppy chow into individual bags and tie with a ribbon.

Merry Christmas!

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Chris Alexander