At 6 feet 2 inches tall, retired sheriff court officer Brett Rogers isn’t the sort to get intimidated easily.  

Not even, it would seem, when he’s thrown into a situation which, for many, would be out of one’s comfort zone. 

The 70-year-old is the only bloke in his aqua aerobics class, and he’s proud to admit he never felt fazed by that.

In fact, Mr Rogers was so impressed by how quickly the water-based exercise was able to relieve his arthritic pain, he started converting others. 

Wednesday morning aqua aerobics classes in Renmark are a hit with locals.(ABC News: Amelia Walters)

After persuading his wife Susan to join him, the happy couple now attend aqua classes three days a week and say it’s the best way to keep fit during retirement.

“I get significant relief from it because I can exercise without pain,” Mr Rogers said.

“I make sure it is the worst-kept secret,” he joked.

Mr and Mrs Rogers are among 200,000 Australians who partake in weekly aqua aerobics and hydrotherapy classes.

Data released by the Australian Sports Commission shows water-based activities were the most popular forms of exercise in 2023 for those aged over 50.

Regional boom

Sarah James, an aqua aerobics instructor at the Alan Coulter Recreation Centre in Renmark, South Australia, said she had seen a significant spike in participants attending since she first began teaching. 

Sarah James says aqua aerobics has boomed in SA’s Riverland.(ABC News: Elyse Armanini)

“When I first started, we barely had anyone coming in, but now we have 20 sometimes even 30 people in the pool at any given time,” she said. 

The Alan Coulter Recreation Centre offers aqua aerobics classes four days a week, and class attendance is always near maximum capacity. 

Ms James said Riverland locals passed on feedback that they would love more classs.

“The demand is definitely there,” she said.

“It would be nice to open up a lot more classes as we would see so many more people coming through the doors.”

Metro areas also take the plunge

It’s not just Riverland locals diving into aqua aerobics.

According to Royal Life Saving Australia, 78 per cent of aquatic facilities and swim schools across Australia offer water aerobics classes. 

Melissa Janisch says before COVID-19, group fitness class attendance was lower, at 50 per cent.(ABC News: Marco Catalano)

The SA Aquatic and Leisure Centre’s health and wellness director Melissa Janisch said pre-COVID-19 they were looking at 7,000 to 8,000 people attending group fitness classes every month.

Now they have 14,000 people attending a month.

“In summer our classes are at 98 per cent attendance and in winter they are at 85 per cent,” Ms Janisch said.

“If we could, we would put more on!” 

Dawn Ross encourages anyone struggling with pain to attend aqua aerobics classes. (ABC News: Marco Catalano)

Adelaide aqua aerobics class instructor Dawn Ross has also seen a noticeable class attendance increase, with a change in gender and age participation.

“It’s starting to extend to younger people, normally we associate aqua aerobics with 50- to 85-year-olds, but now I have people who are 30 coming along,” Ms Ross said.

“More men are also starting to come.

“So it’s good that it is starting to be recognised by more diverse age demographics and genders.”

More people are doing SA Aquatics and Leisure Centre’s classes now than before the pandemic.(ABC News: Marco Catalano )

Good for physical and mental health

 Director of Priority Physiotherapy Clinic in Berri Caitlin Prior said water-based therapy benefited all ages, not just the golden oldies. 

“When you hop into a pool that’s heated, you become buoyant and so it reduces that stress load and makes exercise easier,” she said.

“The water creates resistance, so rather than a band or a load, you get cardiovascular fitness and gain strength in the water.” 

Caitlin Prior says aqua therapy suits all ages and has a multitude of health benefits.(ABC News: Amelia Walters)

Ms Prior said for older people, aqua therapy not only improved their physical and mental wellbeing but could keep them living independently for longer.

“It’s not just looking at cardiovascular fitness, or strength or balance, it’s looking at mental health and wellbeing and having a purpose and catching up with people,” she said.

“We want to keep people active. The more we keep people active, the longer we can keep people at home.”

Sharon, Lynn and Allison all attend  aqua aerobics in Adelaide more than five times a week.(ABC News: Marco Catalano )

Barmera locals Brett and Sue Rogers will continue to make a splash in the Riverland and encourage others to do so. 

“It’s certainly a great add [to my day], and it certainly helps my wellbeing,” Mr Rogers said.

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