The music is blaring, hips are moving and waves are splashing against the sides of the pool. It’s Aqua Zumba and, while it might not have the level of flair and energy that Zumba has on a studio floor, these women are having a good time and getting a good workout, too.
"The teacher is a lot of fun," says Westwood’s Helen Kremen, who slipped away from a series of celebrations for her 90th birthday to take her usual Aqua Zumba class. "We’re always laughing. … I can’t do the moves the way she does."
Maybe not, but Kremen, who turns 90 today, held her own in the class of 11 women one morning last week. Two instructors keep the class’ spirits up and their legs moving under the water.
"I love dancing, and it’s so wonderful to have dance in the water for those who can’t do it [on the floor]," says Catanya Cray, one of Kremen’s instructors at American Woman Fitness in Westwood. "I show beginner, intermediate and advanced, so they can choose."
Aqua Zumba’s targeted population is mostly the baby boom generation and those who can’t handle the impact and intensity of regular Zumba.
Mindy Gansley, who teaches Aqua Zumba classes for Chilton Hospital’s New Vitality program, says that typical students are older women, people recovering from injuries, and those who aren’t in great shape and could be frustrated by a regular Zumba class. Pregnant women, along with obese and overweight people, are also good candidates.
"There’s a lot of special populations that this is for, but not limited to," she says.
It is also a fun workout for those who are happy to hide most of their body underwater while trying to perfect those moves.
"I can’t dance," says Emma Peterson of Rivervale, who is 20. "I don’t have the hips."
"It’s fun to be in the water," says Petersson’s friend Tove Widfors, 20, of Closter, adding there’s a bonus that "no one sees you."
The music in Aqua Zumba is the same as it is in Zumba, but the pace is slower. The water acts as resistance, helping with the workout. It can be easy, like many fitness classes, but it can also be as challenging as you want to make it.
"You use muscles that you don’t know you have," says Petersson.
While not everyone enjoys Aqua Zumba – one local facility stopped offering the program because members didn’t like the class – instructor Laura Werner, who teaches it for the Meadowlands Area YMCA, says she has gotten a great response.
"They loved it – the people love the aquatic version," says Werner. "The same love of music, which is the core of Zumba, is there. … I stress – as long as they’re moving – if you’re moving, and you’re feeling the music, there is no wrong way to do it."
Gansley believes there are benefits for everyone.
"It’s a pool party. It really is," says Gansley. "It’s definitely for all ages, it’s typically [a] safe, effective, challenging workout in the water. You’re taking the dance into the water, which makes it unique. … Aqua Zumba is really a force to be reckoned with because it’s making your typical water workouts fun and exciting."
Aqua Zumba classes are taught locally at the following facilities:
- American Woman Fitness, 700 Broadway, Westwood, 201-660-6600; 350 Ramapo Valley Road, Oakland, 201-405-0555; americanwomanfitness.com.
- New York Sports Club, 1150 Route 17 north, Ramsey, 201-327-1122; nysportsclubs.com.
- New Vitality of Chilton Memorial Hospital (class begins Jan. 24 at Wayne YMCA), 973-831-5367; chiltonhealth.org/senior-health.
- Meadowlands Area YMCA, aquatics classes held at Rutherford High School, 56 Elliott Place, Rutherford, 201-955-5300; ymcainfo.org. Class will resume in the spring.