With interest surging in deepwater workouts, the U.S. Water Fitness Association has introduced a certification program to help instructors whip folks into shape in depths of at least 6 feet.

The Deep Water Instructor course covers 20 exercises, as well as methodology, equipment, and lesson plans.

John Spannuth, USWFA president and CEO, developed the program to address what he felt was a dearth of instructors qualified to lead deepwater drills. It’s a different discipline and deserves its own designation, he said.

The benefits of deepwater exercise are many and well-documented. Water-based workouts increase agility and flexibility, tone and strengthen the core, and rehabilitate the injured. The range of motion and variety of exercises are unrivaled by any land-based regimen. Added water depth builds on these benefits by reducing impact and increasing resistance.

Though floatation belts keep heads and shoulders above water, perpetual motion is the name of the game.

“You’re constantly treading, constantly moving,” said Tonnie Markham, an instructor at the Downtown Durham YMCA in Durham, N.C. Recently certified by the USWFA in deepwater fitness, she’s guiding all types of people — from college athletes to the elderly — in immersive exercises.

She’s not only an instructor but a practitioner.

“Deep water was the best for me,” said Markham who’s had multiple surgeries after an accident severely damaged her knees and neck. “I can do more in the deep water than I could in the shallow end, in less time and with less impact on my joints.”

Spannuth believes programming needs also will place instructors with this credential in high demand. Facility operators always seek to maximize pool space and generate more income, and the deep end represents a prime piece of real estate that often goes underutilized.

“Deep water has potential to create more dollars,” Spannuth said.