Dive into water fitness classes to increase flexibility, strength and cardio endurance. We chatted with Madelyn McCallum, aquatic director at the Grand Traverse Bay YMCA in Traverse City, about the benefits of low-impact water exercises for people of all ages and abilities.

Does water aerobics require a certain level of flexibility, muscle, endurance, etc.? Or can anyone, at any level of fitness, sign up for a class?

“Water fitness is for all ages, flexibilities, strength levels and handicaps. There is no such thing as a too advanced water class. That being said, many water fitness classes have a focus, meaning some could be geared toward slow isotonic movements while others could be fast paced and cardio driven.

We offer over 44 classes between our two pools at the Grand Traverse Bay YMCA. When I get the question, ‘Which class would be best for me?’ my answer is always, ‘It really depends on what your body needs and what you’re looking for.’ As an instructor, there are always ways to modify moves so it is more or less challenging for someone.”

In terms of weight loss, how does water aerobics rank as an exercise program?

“Water fitness is great in terms of weight loss. It is all resistance exercises because you are constantly working against the force of the water. There is also the cardio aspect of it which we know burns fat. Since you’re doing all of these movements against a moving force it takes a great amount of energy to move your limbs and self through the water.”

What would you say are the top 5 benefits of water aerobics?

  1. Increase flexibility
  2. Increase strength through resistance training
  3. Easy on joints and bones because there is little to no impact
  4. Cardio endurance increases when moving in the water
  5. Increase in self-confidence

What are a few “extra” benefits?

“I was reading in a health magazine that if you work out in water you burn about 27 percent more calories because of the resistance in the water. Added benefits include becoming increasingly comfortable in the water, which is a huge benefit seeing as how, in Michigan, we are surrounded by lakes and rivers. There is also the social benefit to working out in a group exercise class. I have been teaching many of my students since the West YMCA on Silver Lake opened.”

Generally, how long are your classes? And how many minutes does it take to get in a good workout?

“A typical water fitness class is between 30 to 60 minutes. How long does it take to get in a good workout? That is always 100 percent up to you! I would say whatever class you’re taking, by the end of it, you should always walk away saying to yourself, ‘That was a great workout!’”

Can someone do water aerobics at their home pool or in a lake?

“Yes, absolutely. Participate in a class, observe and learn different moves, and then do them out in the lake with the family, or host a water fitness night at your home pool. I must emphasize safety first, meaning: remember that swimming in a lake is completely different than swimming in a pool where there are lifeguards. You always want to take all the proper safety precautions first.”

Is there anything else we should know?

“I have been teaching water fitness for about six years. From my own experience, it has increased my flexibility, strength, confidence, endurance and I could go on. I truly believe water fitness is for everyone no matter your swimming experience or physical level. Anyone from a completely non-swimmer to a competitive athlete can still get a great workout.”

Have questions about which Grand Traverse Bay YMCA class you should sign up for? Contact Madelyn McCallum at madelyn@gtbayymca.org.

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Photo(s) by Kelly Hofman