National Fitness Leadership Association Aquatic Exercise Leadership Performance Standards

An Aquatic Exercise Leader designs and implements a safe and effective group aquatic exercise class for apparently healthy participants.

Aquatic Exercise Leader Performance Standards build on the NFLA Exercise Theory Prerequisite Knowledge Base.

Health-related Benefits of Physical Activity

Performance Standard #1

The Aquatic Exercise Leader describes the benefits of aquaticexercise.


  1. Defines aquatic exercise

  2. Explains the current trends and factors that influence the popularity of aquatic exercise

  3. Describes and explains the benefits of group aquatic exercise

Leadership and Communication

I Leadership

Performance Standard #1

The Aquatic Exercise Leader demonstrates and identifies qualities, strategies, and skills of effective leadership.


  1. Identifies professional qualities of leadership

  2. Identifies the skills of effective aquatic exercise leaders

  3. Applies leadership strategies in the delivery of aquatic exercise classes

  4. Describes effective leadership styles and motivation techniques

II Communication

Performance Standard #2

The Aquatic Exercise Leader recognizes and demonstrates a variety of effective communication techniques.


  1. Distinguishes between verbal and visual cueing

  2. Describes how to enhance verbal and visual cueing

  3. Explains effective communication skills

  4. States forms and techniques of giving and receiving feedback

  5. Discusses the advantages and challenges of teaching from the pool deck and teaching in the water

  6. Identifies techniques to reduce voice injury

III Working with Groups

Performance Standard #3

The Aquatic Exercise Leader demonstrates knowledge of group dynamics.


  1. Creates a supportive, participant-centred environment

  2. Identifies challenges in leading group exercise classes

  3. Explains the stages of group development

Professional Practice

Performance Standard

The Aquatic Exercise Leader demonstrates knowledge of professional conduct in an aquatic exercise setting.


  1. Acts in accordance with the scope of practice

  2. Adheres to the code of conduct

  3. Acts as an informed resource to colleagues and participants

  4. Maintains accreditation

  5. Demonstrates commitment to continued education and professional development

Program Planning

I Exercise Analysis

Performance Standard #1

The Aquatic Exercise Leader selects safe and appropriate exercises for the goals and objectives of an aquatic exercise class.


  1. Identifies the process of movement analysis

  2. Describes the principles of movement analysis

  3. Explains the intended and actual purpose of a given exercise, analyzes its potential risks, and provides modifications

  4. Defends exercise selection for appropriate use

  5. Identifies common exercise modifications

  6. Identifies how to progress exercise for a given muscle group

  7. Explains the importance of proper body alignment, posture, and core stabilization

  8. Identifies ways to correct errors in technique


II Class Design

Performance Standard #2

The Aquatic Exercise Leader designs an effective program using established methods and training principles.


  1. Identifies the steps in class design

  2. Describes the components of an exercise class

  3. Explains the purpose of a given component of fitness

  4. Demonstrates ways to execute the exercise selections

  5. Applies the FITT formula to an exercise class

  6. Applies the properties of water and the principles of conditioning to a variety of aquatic exercise programs

  7. Identifies and differentiates methods to monitor exercise intensity

  8. Describes ways to evaluate the effectiveness of class design

  9. Lists and describes functional fitness skills in an appropriate class setting

  10. Describes use of a variety of training methods and types

III Use of Music

Performance Standard #3

The Aquatic Exercise Leader selects music appropriate for both the class format and audience.


  1. Lists reasons for using music in classes

  2. Explains uses of music in an aquatic exercise setting

  3. Identifies music appropriate for different class formats, styles, and pace

  4. Identifies safe music and microphone volumes

  5. Acknowledges music copyright laws

IV   Use of Equipment

Performance Standard #4

The Aquatic Exercise Leader demonstrates how to use equipment to enhance training for various participants and class types, ensuring that it is both safe and effective.


  1. Describes the purpose of different pieces of aquatic exercise equipment

  2. Describes the advantages and disadvantages of using a piece of equipment

  3. Identifies when it is or is not appropriate to use equipment

  4. Designs appropriate exercises and alternatives using various pieces of equipment

V Risk Management

Performance Standard #5

The Aquatic Exercise Leader leads classes in a way to minimize and manage risk.


  1. Identifies importance of health screening

  2. Assesses and addresses potential environmental safety issues

  3. Assesses and addresses potential equipment safety issues

  4. Recognizes the implications of legal issues

  5. Identifies common emergency procedures and the exercise leader’s role in response to emergencies

Applied Physical Principles of Water

Performance Standard #1

The Aquatic Fitness Leader describes how the aquatic environment influences the body during an aquatic exercise class.


  1. Describes the physiological responses to variations in air and water temperatures and the implications for class design

  2. Explains the body's ability to thermoregulate and the implications for exercising in the water

  3. Explains the different physiological and psychological responses to exercise in either hot or cold water environments

  4. Describes the benefits of aquatic exercise on weight management, aerobic capacity, and stress

  5. Explains why aquatic heart rates may be lower than land-based heart rates for the same exercise

Performance Standard #2

The Aquatic Exercise Leader describes and demonstrates an understanding of the physical properties of water.


  1. Defines and explains terms and principles relating to movement in water: buoyancy (assisted, supported, resisted); viscosity, gravity; water resistances drag forces; propulsion; turbulence; inertia; acceleration/deceleration; action/reaction; leverage; Archimedes’ principle; hydrostatic pressure; stability; muscular contraction return; and speed of movement