Aquatic Fitness Instructor Certification

Written by elizabeth kovar
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  • Introduction

    Aquatic Fitness Instructor Certification

    Aquatic fitness instructors can have the opportunity to teach to all fitness levels from seniors to pre-natal mothers. Teaching facilities include fitness centres, community centres, hotel resorts or medical centres that offer water therapy. Water fitness is a double-concentric exercise and has many contraindications. Water instructors should be knowledgeable of the components of water classes, which can be learnt by obtaining a core aquatic fitness instructor certification.

    Water instructors can teach at a variety of facilities. (line in swimming pool image by Georgiy Pashin from

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    Nationally recognised water instructor certification courses are held by the Aquatic & Fitness Professional Association--International (APAI) and Aquatic Exercise Association (AEA). Practical and written exams must be passed to demonstrate knowledge in areas including exercise design, human anatomy, aqua terminology, population intensity and the effects of buoyance. Obtaining a current CPR card is required prior to the examination date.

    Mommy and Me classes are popular for moms and newborns. (mother and baby in pool image by Photoeyes from

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    Exam Information

    AEA offers a 100 question exam and APAI offers a 150 question exam. AEA recommends instructors to have 8 to 12 weeks of theoretical study and 6 months of teaching experience. APAI tests on subject areas including the cardiovascular system, Kreb's Cycle, human anatomy, heart rate, water dynamics, Newton's Law, contraindication exercises, phases of respiration and nutrition. The practical exam consists of a 15-minute demonstration that shows the instructor can properly use class-building principles including warm-up, an aerobic section, and cool-down and stretching. APAI requires that instructors use a pattern building style of teaching such as the add-on pattern, linkage, layering technique and pyramid style.

    Instructors can teach on land or in the pool during the practical exam. (by the pool image by Donald Joski from

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    Special Populations

    Water workouts are great to stay in shape and to lose weight, but are beneficial for special populations who cannot perform land exercises. Water instructors are needed to teach populations including the physically/mentally disabled, pre-natal mothers, seniors, water rehabilitation patients and children. A variety of equipment can be used during class such as aqua barbells, noodles, webbed gloves, power paddles, aqua steps, aqua joggers and deep water aquatic belts. Using equipment can help strengthen certain areas while increasing the range of motion of joints.

    Water weights are the most common equipment used in class. (hand holds yellow dumbbell on white background (isolated) image by Georgiy Pashin from

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    Continuing Education

    Instructors teach a variety of classes including water aerobics, deep water Pilates, aqua arthritis, aqua kick-boxing, aqua core and stretch, aqua yoga and senior aqua classes. To gain knowledge about these certain styles it is required for instructors to take Continuing Education Units with water workshops. This helps design classes appropriate for specific populations. Water fitness instructor certifications are valid for two years and require 15 hours of continuing education to keep a valid certification.

    Instructors can teach relaxation and stretching techniques with Aqua Yoga classes. (Zen! image by Christophe Schmid from

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    Implementing the Certification Knowledge

    Implementing the proper teaching technique leads to a successful class. Many aerobic instructors who teach in the pool without a certification make the mistake of taking land exercises and implementing them into the pool. Many normal land exercises are contraindication exercises and cannot be used in water with certain populations due to high intensity movements that can cause injury. For example, patrons "climbing a ladder" on land run with high knees and arms overhead. This is contraindicated for the water since the heart rate is lower in the water than on land, but raising arms overhead lifts the heart rate. Therefore, the exerciser may drastically increase the heart rate, which a certified aquatic fitness instructor would know.

    Modified exercise should be used for special populations. (eldery man in water image by Cherry-Merry from

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