Swim Your Way to Fitness

Fitness instructor Nicole Thompson shares with us the benefits of aqua fitness - a great sport for the fit and healthy, or even those who are pregnant or suffer from arthritis, obesity and other conditions. No matter the season, the pool can be your gym.

Even as fall is upon us, Bay Area residents are lucky enough to have more time in the sun.

One of the many types of exercise open to us during this extension of sunshine – that we can also bring into indoor recreation centers – is aqua fitness.

Aquatic exercise is one of the most universal types of exercise. It is easy on the joints, and good for arthritis sufferers, pregnant woman, seniors, children and rehabilitation or therapy. 

Aquatic exercise is almost completely non-weight bearing, which is why it is easy on the joints and good for rehab. The buoyancy also helps relieve stress on the joints as you ‘weigh less’ in the water, which is how it helps pregnant women. And water acts as a stabilizer for those who may not have good balance as they can’t ‘fall,' especially if they are in the shallow water or holding on to the side of a pool. It helps with flexibility, provides for greater range of motion, and the water also acts as resistance.

Water Aerobics Instructor Christina Kertel with the City of Newark adds that pain and restriction is reduced while in water.

“All exercises are based on laws of physics. Land exercises are based on gravity,” Kertel said. “The biggest benefit to water is being able to do things in water that you absolutely cannot do on land.  They come in a wheelchair because they cannot walk. You put them in the water and they can walk across the pool. The look on their face with that first step is priceless.”

According to the Aquatic Exercise Association, an aquatic fitness program should be balanced in cardio respiratory endurance, muscular conditioning and flexibility to promote general fitness.

Water quality should be optimal, tested and maintained. Water temperature should be 83-86 degrees Fahrenheit, because warm water increases circulation through the body.

Temperature ranges can vary depending on the type of workout or population such as pregnancy, older adults, arthritis, Parkinson’s disease (90-92), therapy/rehab (90-95), or competitive swimming (78-82).

Footwear is recommended for shallow aquatic fitness, especially if there are impacts or traveling movements. Shoes can reduce impact, provide additional weight to help stay grounded, protect the feet from injury, and allow friction to the pool floor.

Shoes are especially recommended for individuals classified as pregnant, obese, diabetic or having musculoskeletal disorders.

Shallow-water training is considered a water depth of waist to chest level. It is lower impact than on land, but there is still some joint loading.

Deep-water training is in depths where one can’t touch the floor and it’s non-impact. For deep-water aquatic training, some sort of body-attached buoyancy method is recommended such as a vest or arm cuffs. To increase resistance and intensity, you can use foam noodles, foam dumbbells, or webbed gloves or shoes.

Many local cities have Aquatic Fitness Programs. While Milpitas, Newark, Union City and Fremont all have some form of swimming instruction or open swim, Milpitas and Newark have special Fitness Classes from Aqua Aerobics to Arthritis water classes.


Milpitas Sports and Aquatics Center

Milpitas has an outdoor heated pool. During the peak months (summer) there are approximately 40 participants per class and during non-peak (winter) there are approximately 16-24. Classes include Rusty Hinges, Arthritis Aquatics (in conjunction with the Northern California Chapter Arthritis Foundation), Water Exercise and Moms in Motion (seasonal). There is a $5 per visit drop-in fee or $3 per visit for members and Milpitas residents. The non-resident member fee is $50/yr.

Fall Fitness Class Schedule

Contact: Jaime Chew, recreation supervisor or  Rosana Cacao, program coordinator.

Front Desk: 408-586-3225


City of Newark’s Silliman Activity Center

Newark’s Fall Program runs from August to November, with registration fees provided through the Arthritis Foundation Grant. You can still register for Session 2 (Oct. 10-Nov. 3) and Session 3 (Nov. 7-Dec. 8) for $63 for residents or $69 for non-residents. Daily drop-in rate is $8.75 per class.

There are three classes to choose from:

  • Aqua Motion is moderate level and designed for all abilities.
  • Splash Aerobics is a bit more challenging, although still good for all levels. It moves at a quicker pace than Aqua Motion.
  • The Arthritis Foundation Aquatic Program is a shallow water exercise class designed for those with Arthritis and other joint issues and is doctor recommended.  

Contact: PETER.BEIREIS@newark.org, senior supervisor, Silliman Aquatic Center (510) 578-4620.You can also purchase multi-use passes at www.newark.org.


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