5 Reasons Why More Men Are Attending Aquatic Fitness Classes

Tuesday, July 02 2019

Photos courtesy of AEA/IAFC; Design by Sheryl Ewart

The 29th International Aquatic Fitness Conference (IAFC) just wrapped up and as always it was encouraging to see so many male presenters teaching and male instructors attending.   The face of aquatic fitness is definitely changing here in the USA and a new and more masculine generation of health seekers is discovering aquatic fitness.

Water fitness in the USA has long suffered from the stigma of being labeled as a ‘light & easy” class where older women socialized.  In other regions of the world, aquatic fitness evolved as a “gym activity” which created an entirely different perspective, resulting in a more diverse attendance of males and younger participants.

IAFC has often been evidence of this global discrepancy.  For the past three decades, most of the male presenters and most of the male participants come from outside of the USA.   This year it was nice to see more male USA presenters (Craig Yaniglos, Trevin Green and Christopher Kaifos) and more USA male instructors attending - many for the first time. 

So are there really more men participating in aquatic fitness classes?  While there is no current polling or hard facts to support this claim, I think most instructors would concur that more men are attending classes and below are some reasons why.   

5 Reasons More Men Are Taking Aquatic Fitness Classes

1. More Males Are Teaching

Men have always and will always go to fitness classes led by women, but group fitness history has proven that once more men become involved as instructors, more men become involved as participants. Simply put:  A man feels more comfortable attending a class if there is at least one other male present – whether it be the instructor or another male participant.  Once there is one – it is easier to attract more. 

2. More Instructors Are Empathetic To The Male Psyche

As more instructors become sensitive to the likes and dislikes of men, more men attend classes.  Regardless of your gender, if you want to make your classes more ‘man friendly,” avoid talking about your family, shopping, cooking and entertainment while you are teaching.   If men are present, ditch the hip rolls, shoulder shimmies and butt squeezes, as it is just plain embarrassing for guys to attempt this.  Keep the arms under the water because waving them around in the air just makes men feel silly and self-conscious.  Most guys hate partner work so spare them the agony.  And if testosterone is present, think twice about spending a long period of time straddling a noodle because it is not overly comfortable on a male’s private parts and it just feels perverse to a guy to have a large, cylindrical object protruding from his crotch in a public pool. And for the love of God – please don’t do Kegel exercises no matter how much you think a man might benefit from them.  

3. More Masculine Class Titles & Descriptions

First impressions are everything when a man is looking over an aquatic fitness class schedule.  More than likely he will make an immediate determination on whether or not to try a class based on the title or description.  Calling your class Aqua Tone, Water Aerobics or Aquacise is probably not going to entice males.  For example, aquatic fitness is often referred to in Europe as Aqua Gym classes, which has a more masculine interpretation.  Avoid the following words in your title or description if you hope to attract more males to your class:  Aerobic, Aquasize, Body Shaping, Butt, Choreography, Dance, Sleek, Slim, Thighs and Toned.  Instead, consider the following words:  Aqua Fit, Aqua Gym, Aqua Sport, Aqua X, Cardio, Challenge, Circuit, Exercise, Intense, Power, Resistance, Stamina, Strength and Workout.

4. More Challenging & Athletic Programming

Group classes in the pool tend to always follow the trends of group classes in the studio.  It was just 20 years ago that Spinning (Johnny G.) and Kickboxing (Billy Blanks) changed the face of group fitness forever.  Men responded to these more masculine and challenging group fitness experiences.  Soon after, the pendulum swung even further away from Hi/Lo and Step Aerobics towards group strength and mind & body classes and once again men responded in huge numbers.  The same trend in the pool has helped change the face of aquatic fitness.  Boot camp, Cycling, HIIT, Kickboxing and Tabata have all added some machismo to aquatic fitness.  Classes that feature equipment are also popular with guys.  Those attending IAFC may have noticed the “male bonding” in the IAFC Marketplace, with many of the aquatic fitness equipment companies run and staffed by men, including Aquatic Fitness Gear, Aqualogix, Aqua Strength, Aqua Wall Gym, Gym Stick and more.  It is all about programming, programming and programming.  If you want more males in your classes you have to attract them with programming that appeals to them.

5. More Boomer Men

As much as we want to attract younger people in our classes, the fact is that the properties of the aquatic environment make it ideal for older adults to exercise in water.   Baby Boomers are currently between the ages of 52-70 (2016) – which means a massive amount of older adults will be moving to the pool over the next 20 years.  The exodus from the studio to the pool has already begun for many Boomers with achy joints.  And that just means it is a numbers game.  Ready or not – more men are heading to the pool and there are a lot more coming behind them.

Men are making a difference

At IAFC 2016, a new generation of male presenters added some machismo to aquatic fitness, including the men of Portugal – Francisco, Joao and Pedro, as well as Javier (Spain), Ivan (Italy), Eiichi & Masanori (Japan) and more. And of course, male IAFC legends over the years have and continue to inspire, including Craig Stuart, Ian Levia, Greg Keyes and of course the men of Brazil – Nino, Paulo and Eduardo.  There are many others that I have not named who deserve credit for adding some masculine influence to a female dominated industry over the last 30 years. 

And of course, a big salute and congratulations to AEA’s 2016 Global Award recipient for Aquatic Fitness Professional - Joao Santos from Portugal. Way to go dude!

Fitmotivation has been celebrating AQUAMEN in May and it continues into June. 
Check out FOUR new videos with Aqua Men from around the world.

AquaCombat Cardio Mixes with Andrea Gilardoni (Italy)
H2O HIIT Hi/Lo with Mark Grevelding (USA)
Hydro Electric Deep with Dominic Gili (Australia)
Aqua Libre with Wim Van Lancker (Belgium)  Posting June 6

Author: Mark Grevelding is the founder of Fitmotivation. He is also a training specialist and consultant with the Aquatic Exercise Association’s (AEA). Mark has been active in the fitness industry for 22 years as a group fitness instructor, personal trainer, international presenter and a continuing education provider for AEA, AFAA & ACE.