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

Ai Chi for Deep Water

Ai Chi (“energy of love”) is a water exercise and relaxation program that combines deep breathing and slow, large movements, performed in continuous, flowing patterns. It was created by Mr. Jun Konno of Japan and further developed my Ms. Ruth Sova in the United States. The YouTube video above shows Mr. Konno demonstrating Ai Chi.

Ai Chi, performed in shallow water, is so wonderfully relaxing that I wanted to try it with my deep water classes. This required modification, since weight shifting is not possible while suspended in deep water. I will present my modifications on Ai Chi Day, on Sunday July 25, 2021. The Zoom conference lasts from 8:00 AM – 12:00 noon EDT (7:00 AM – 11:00 AM CDT). There will be 18 presenters, including Jun Konno and Ruth Sova; my presentation is 10:10 – 10:19 AM EDT (9:10 – 9:19 AM CDT). If you are interested in attending, you can contact Ruth Sova at for more information.

I am excited about presenting. Here is a preview of Ai Chi in deep water:


The first stage of Ai Chi is called Contemplating and it is a preparation for the moves to come. your body is in an upright posture with the spine in neutral and the legs apart. The arms are out to the sides near the surface of the water. Focus on your breathing. Inhale through the nose and exhale through the nose and mouth. Become aware of how your body rises and falls in the water. Then begin the first sequence, a series of four moves called Floating, Uplifting, Enclosing and Folding, which focus on breathing. They feature a series of arm moves. Most of the upper body moves work well in deep water, but upward movement, such as the front shoulder raise in Floating, tends to make the body sink. You can avoid sinking by turning the thumbs up and slicing through the water.


The second Ai Chi sequence focuses on healing, and includes exercises for the upper body and trunk stability. You will need to brace your core to stabilize in deep water. Webbed gloves can also help with stability if necessary. The movements in this sequence are called Soothing, Gathering and Accepting. The moves begin with a turn to the side. In deep water you will use a scull to assist in turning. The legs stay apart in a suspended lunge position while the arms sweep and flow. After you perform several repetitions of a move on one side, you turn to the other side and repeat the repetitions.

Balancing Begin

The third Ai Chi sequence is called healing and it focuses on the lower body. The moves are called Accepting with Grace, Rounding and Balancing. To get into position you turn to the side using a scull which puts the legs in a suspended lunge position. From there you need to drop the legs into neutral or the lower body movement tends to become a slow cross-country ski. Instead, brace the core and move one leg to the back, or to the front, or swing it front to back as in Balancing (in the photos above) while the arms sweep and flow. After performing several repetitions of each move on one side, turn to the other side and repeat the repetitions.

There is no right or wrong way to perform Ai Chi. Whatever adaptions you make, including deep water adaptations, will make it right for you. See you in the pool!

Author/Instructor Photo
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 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.

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.

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.

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

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 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