For years, I have fought against the term “water aerobics”. Why? For the simple fact it is misleading – the water offers much more than just aerobics. Additionally, I feel the term “water aerobics” has been pigeonholed into the department of therapy or at least so closely aligned that the active, healthy adults have established negative connotations about water aerobics.

Yet, water exercise is wise and one of the most effective and efficient exercise programs you could include in your busy schedule, but alas the term is misleading and a new name is needed for this remarkable exercise program.

For years, I used the term “swim fitness”.  The term “water fitness” I am warming up to but I still find “swim fitness” to be a better term.

Why the term “swim fitness” rather than “water fitness”? For one, open water is different than swimming pool water. Open water is much more dangerous than a controlled environment that has no under currents. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, I envision all water fitness programs to mimic the benefits of full immersion swimming. Water aerobics serves the participants well to use the water for fitness while at the same time maintaining a vertical stance and the sensitive areas of the head, the eyes, ears and nose out of the water. Yet the term “swim fitness” , I feel celebrates the critical skill of full immersion swimming.


If I were to say to you I am a “swim fitness instructor”, what would you conjure up in your mind? You would envision that I knew something about full immersion swimming? Right? And water fitness professionals, I feel should have an understanding IF not an education of what full immersion swimming entails.


Historically we have aimed for educating children of how to swim. This is a noble mission that must continue. I feel strongly the fitness profession should also embrace the knowledge of swimming and include a small portion of full immersion swimming in all the professional fitness certifications.

The “Water Fitness” Term Verses the Term “Water Aerobics”

I must admit “water fitness” is much more preferable than “water aerobics”. I can live with the term “water fitness”, I cannot live with the term “water aerobics”.

However, having stated that can the fitness industry really continue to advance without including some knowledge base of the skill of full immersion swimming? Should the fitness industry continue to ignore swimming?

Personal Trainer Experience

The health club that I was privileged to obtain my personal trainer certification from had the most remarkable trainers. The health club was medically based and beyond the fitness center housed under the same roof was the therapy division including water therapy. However, to the prestige of that club, many of the water fitness coaches were also certified as swim coaches. It was a wonderful experience to have fitness professionals who were or once were swim coaches. This heightened standard of education had a profound affect upon the clients.

One of the most remarkable clients I have ever seen was a lady who was literally crippled who took first water therapy, then water aerobics, then deep water aerobics and then last I saw her she was swimming full immersion laps! Here is an example of a woman who wouldn’t move, couldn’t move and because of the extensive training of the staff on hand, this individual was able to progress beyond therapy to water fitness and then to the ultimate of all fitness programs – able to regularly swim laps with her new found full immersion swimming skills.

I will never wish or even have a remote desire to swim full immersion laps.  I enjoy swimming laps with the Cuddle Core best, a kick board on occasion. My legs are my weakest muscles and my knees will literally shout at me when I don’t exercise my legs.  The swimming pool offers an unique resistance challenge for my legs – it target tones both the hamstrings and the quadriceps in one motion – imagine always being on the incline on the tread mill.

As a certified group instructor, as a certified personal trainer, sadly I was not given much education on the technical elements of full immersion swimming.  I took it on myself to learn and understand the principals of kick boards and know their many benefits.

I feel the “water fitness” world could better served their clients if all the fitness certifications included an element about full immersion swimming.

Where is the fitness industry today? Essentially land fitness and water fitness and swim fitness are all three in separate zones. This I feel leaves the world less educated and the choices biased. Worst yet, the term swimming remains scary for most individuals. The swimming pool is loved but the term “swimming” remains a scary thought. This paradigm is sad.

The Scary Term of Swimming

When a physician recommends “swimming”, the patients first reaction is fear and mentally they immediately think “I cannot do that!” Then they learn about vertical water fitness and their fears are thwarted. Yet, what if we as fitness professionals took on a new term, a term “swim fitness” showcasing the location of the fitness is in the swimming pool. Would the term “swim fitness” garner more clout than “water fitness”? Could the connotations of water aerobics and the 74 year old frail grandmother be forever dispersed? Or how do we change the paradigm of water fitness closely aligned to therapy?

In a Perfect Fitness World

We would see all fitness professionals certified with some degree of education about full immersion swimming.

We would see the skill of full immersion swimming celebrated rather than scary.

We would see all water fitness professionals knowledgeable about full immersion swimming.

We would see all land fitness professionals knowledgeable about swim fitness.

In a perfect world, land fitness professionals and swim fitness professionals would cross promote each world of fitness.

In a perfect world, physicians would prescribe fitness.

In a perfect world, physicians would avoid the term “swimming”.

In a perfect world, all fitness programs would include both land and swim fitness.

How Do You Feel About the Terms – Swim Fitness and Water Fitness

I vote for the term “swim fitness” over “water fitness”.

What term would you prefer the physician to reference? Swim fitness, water fitness, water aerobics, water therapy?

I would love to hear your opinion. Please feel free to share below in the comment section.