Healing Waters

Photography provided by YMCA of Greater Cincinnati

When winter weather settles in, it can become more difficult to include exercise in your daily routine. The YMCA of Greater Cincinnati offers several warm water options to take the chill out of your workout. Swimming is one of the safest, healthiest physical activities around. This low-impact, total-body workout can be a great fit for people of any age and skill level. The Y is a true pioneer in the field, opening its first community pool in 1885. 

Check out some of the Y’s newest water-based classes and read about a few classic favorites:

Hydro Running Class

This new offering is not a traditional water fitness class. Non-impact hydro running builds core strength, provides resistance training, improves cardiovascular health, increases lung capacity and allows participants to socialize and relax. Participants wear water belts and have zero impact with the bottom of the pool. Instructor Jill Huffman says, “A wide variety of people have taken this class, from singers looking to improve lung capacity, to members looking to lose weight, to marathoners striving to run faster, to those looking to rehab after injuries.”

Aqua Yoga

This combines the focus of yoga with water. “The water allows for buoyancy and more support for the students,” says instructor Betsy Brothers, a registered nurse. “It is easier on the joints and more accessible for those with mobility issues, relieving pressure on hips and joints.” 

Water in Motion

This new class helps to strengthen all major muscle groups, especially the core, while focusing on fun, easy dance moves set to popular music. “This is a unique class that just about anyone can participate in, regardless of limitations or injuries,” says instructor Juanita Gable. “It challenges you while being non-threatening to beginners. The music and party atmosphere will make you want to move more, while the soothing support of the water will mitigate muscle soreness and strain.” 

Shallow Water Cardio and Strength

Designed for seniors, this friendly class features upbeat music from the 1950s and ’60s to current hits. Participants go through a traditional warm-up, a low-impact cardio session and a cool-down, buoyed by the support of water. Attention is paid to exercises that can help to improve balance and provide a well-rounded workout. “Some members have told me their bone density improved with this workout,” says instructor Deborah Drew. “Others have told me the class has helped their coordination and balance.”

Competitive Swimming

In addition to the traditional swim lessons that have brought families to the YMCA for more than a century, the facilities also offer an exciting competitive swim program for young athletes and adults who want to take their swimming skills to the next level. An estimated 800 youth and 100 adults take part in the Y’s competitive and masters programs. 

Children as young as 5 can join locally and nationally competitive teams that focus on quality, align with national YMCA competitive standards, and provide them with more exposure and greater opportunities to compete at both regional and national levels. Swimmers are grouped into four age groups, which operate out of eight local branches. Three branches also provide a masters-level program for ages 19 and up – the programs at the Powel Crosley, Jr. and M.E. Lyons branches are led by coaches.

“Masters swimming is a healthy, supportive, challenging, goal-centered, fun team program for people of all ages,” says Meredith Griffin, assistant director of competitive aquatics. “The water is both a tranquil and empowering environment, and since it is both individual and group-centered, it provides personal and social opportunities.” 

Swimming for All

The Y also offers adaptive swim lessons that are modified to meet the needs of individuals with disabilities. “The goal is to make swimmers safe and successful in the water,” says Ann Knoodle, adaptive swim instructor. Knoodle’s team of volunteers works to ensure participants in the adaptive swim program have one-on-one and small group training. Many of these athletes go on to compete in the Special Olympics.


Every YMCA water-based program is aimed at creating a safe, fun, personally challenging environment that allows participants to become healthier while experiencing the unique benefit of being in the water. “Our bodies are 90 percent water,” says Huffman. “Therefore, being in the water is synergistic.”

For more information about YMCA of Cincinnati, call 513.362.YMCA or visit myY.org.

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