Love to teach water fitness programs? Circuits are fun, they provide variety, and you can make them sport-specific to the older golfer, tennis player or runner. The following class gives you a glimpse into the many pool variations you can offer your senior fitness participants.

Class Details

Format: circuit/intervals in the water
Total Time: approximately 45 minutes

Equipment Needed: water weights, noodles, Frisbee® disks, marbles and mats
Music: Use age-appropriate (generational) music with 125-136 beats per minute.

Additional Considerations:

  • Set up stations in the shallow or deep end of the pool, or in a combination of both.
  • Make stations all cardiovascular or all strength, or alternate between the two.
  • Rotate students to different preset stations or, in the case of interval training types of classes, intersperse different exercises throughout the class at specific times for specific lengths of time.
  • Let participants determine the setup. For example, how many students are there, and what is their combined skill level? Class length is also a factor.
  • Give modifications for each exercise.

Keep success and safety in mind with this format. The class works best when you have an existing rapport with the students and you have used the moves in previous classes, so you don’t need to spend much time explaining the exercises. You can also demonstrate and/or practice the moves for each station in the warm-up.

The Class

Warm-Up. The warm-up should last at least 7-10 minutes and include basic water fitness moves, such as jogging or walking forward and back, sculling side to side, kicking, cross-country skiing and jumping jacks.

The Circuit. The circuit training segment consists of 1-minute interval challenges. Pair up students based on their fitness levels, not on whom they are most comfortable talking to. While not all the exercises are partner-based, it is more fun when participants can work as a team. This circuit does not require participants to switch stations. They just need to get their equipment, which is kept on the side (deck) of the pool. Keep the following in mind:

  • Have all partners perform the same move at the same time.
  • Explain each move first.
  • On your mark, urge participants to go “all out” for 1 minute. Repeat each move once for a “recovery” before going on to the next move (recovery time depends on participants’ fitness level, how many intervals you want and class length).

The Cool-Down. Finish with, at minimum, a 5-minute cool-down. Have students remain in mid-chest-depth water, legs apart and knees bent. Start by having them rotate their shoulders gently to the rear, under water, and transition to slow breaststroke moves with thumbs up. Then cue participants to look slowly over one shoulder and then the other; stand on one leg while sculling and place the other foot on the opposite thigh (or shin); and then repeat using the other leg.

Suggested Moves

  1. While straddling the noodle back-to-back, person A tries to cycle left while person B tries to cycle right. This is best done in mid-depth water or in the deep end of the pool.
  2. Partners face each other, holding two noodles lengthwise between them. Each person does a cross-country ski move with alternating legs and arms, holding onto noodles (shallow end).
  3. Each participant stands solo on a noodle (which is on the bottom of the pool) with hands sculling. Everyone “waddles” forward, then back (shallow end).
  4. Each participant kneels on noodle with hands out of water, focusing on balance (either depth).
  5. While straddling the noodle back-to-back, person A moves forward, pulling person B, who tries to maintain a vertical position (deep end).

For a second sample class—perfect for holidays and special events—please refer to the complete article, “Sample Class: Pool Circuits for Older Adults,” in the April 2009 issue of IDEA Fitness Journal or read the article online in IDEA’s
Health and Fitness Article Library.

The DVD Pool Circuits for Older Adults with Gay Elliott is available in the online IDEA Store.

Gay Elliott

Gay Elliott has 30 years experience as a physical education teacher, fitness and aqua-fitness instructor and older adults exercise specialist. As owner of Aristo-Fit, she teaches over 200 older adults in her private weekly fitness classes, conducts European Adventure tours and presents internationally.

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