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Donna Stocker shares her belief in the potential of aqua fitness

Let’s first get rid of the misconception that aquatic fitness is for the older members of the population and pregnant women.
Of course, it is highly relevant and beneficial to these demographics, but what if we jumped outside that box and changed the way we approach aqua fitness? There is so much more to be discovered in aqua fitness and if we invest in our programs, in developing our aqua instructors and empowering them to be the best, update our marketing strategies and look at how we can improve aqua fitness in Australia – then I can assure you, your demographic will change!
Here I often ask, why is it that facility managers will invest in treadmills that each costs thousands of dollars, but think aqua fitness is not worth investment?
Parafield Gardens Swim School in South Australia has tapped into the largely untouched aqua fitness market and it has paid dividends. Since the owners took the leap of faith and started Acquapole® in their centre in 2014, the results have been astounding. They now have a program of more than 25 classes a week – with waiting lists which produced an overflow into their general aqua classes.
In addition, the ages of those exercising dropped significantly and now they have participants from 13 years to over 80 - and every age group in between attending their centre. The classes are also in demand from sporting groups to change up their training and for recovery.
From these results, Acquapole® Australasia was born. A company that imports high quality aquatic fitness equipment into Australia from their parent companies Acquapole® in Italy and SAF Aqua in Poland. The products include Acquapoles® and all their accessories, Aqua Steps, Combat Gloves, SAF Aqua Drums Vibes and a new ‘Liquid Range’ of bikes, jumps (yes, a trampoline that goes in water!) and the Liquid Runsphere (which is like a treadmill but has omnidirectional spheres rather than a belt).
Linked to this are aquatic training programs across Australia and New Zealand, led by Master Trainers Kym A’Court, Samantha Dempsey and myself that upskills staff teams and to get the best out of the equipment and the programs.
In my role as the Fitness Co-ordinator at Parafield Gardens Swim School, I am seeing clients are savvy and more knowledgeable than ever before with the internet providing a range of information and resources on aqua fitness.
As a result, participants are demanding and wanting more from their workouts and their instructors, and are aware of what equipment is available. We receive requests daily where to find classes like ours by participants and requests from instructors for our courses, workshops and mentoring.
It doesn’t matter what equipment you have or how much you market, if you don’t have a great leader who can mentor your instructors, you don’t invest in your team and your team is not driven to provide the best classes nothing will change in the industry.
If you stick to the same old formula, then you will have the same programs and the same demographic. Change can be scary but to improve and to move forward sometimes it is required.
For example, I have has targeted Certificate III & IV in Fitness Qualified instructors/personal trainers and have mentored them to become aqua instructors which has encouraged a young, vibrant energetic team that give their all and are a level above with their knowledge.
Here, Parafield Gardens Swim School welcomes any facility managers or aqua instructors who would like to check out their programs and classes to visit the centre to meet with me and chat about aqua fitness.
Moving forward, I see that the Australian aqua fitness industry is ready for a change and on the verge of realising its huge potential. The European aquatic fitness market is a thriving one, largely due to highly skilled instructors, development, aquatic equipment availability, their creativity and their personal flare.
They instruct with so much enthusiasm it is hard to question their love of aqua fitness.
At Parafield Gardens Swim School we aim to bring this flare to our classes and have modelled what we do on the European market. With this in mind, we have been through lots of training with our aqua fitness team and combined efforts of all our instructors to constantly keep learning and striving the be the best. We consistently share our knowledge with each other and run in house training with our team to provide them with new ideas.
Looking to further promote aqua fitness, I am coordinating the first Australian International Aqua Fitness Convention (AIAFC), an event designed to showcase all that is best about aquatic fitness, how to present the best aqua fitness programs and to show what can be achieved.
Set to be held in Adelaide from 14th to 16th February, AIAFC will feature presentations from aquatic fitness leaders from around the world, with a group including Stefania Manfredi (Acquapole® Co-inventor Italy), Gabriele Tufano (Acquapole® Master Trainer Italy), Andrea Gilardoni and Antonio Russo from Italy representing Euro Education Aqua Italy, along with Joanna Apolinarska from SAF Aqua in Poland.
With recent years having seen so much growth in aqua fitness, as we move into this new decade it’s time to step up and realise the potential of aquatic training.

Donna Stocker is Fitness Co-ordinator at Parafield Gardens Swim School and Co-ordinator of the AIAFC.
The inaugural Australian International Aqua Fitness Convention is being held in Adelaide from 14th to 16th February.
For details call 0412 262 345 or go to