The Latin music plays for an hour as the class of 14 women dance their way through samba, merengue, and salsa beats in the pool at the Waltham YMCA.
Instructor Justin Falxa choreographs the moves for Aqua Zumba to match each song, just as he does for the standard Zumba classes he teaches, but as he demonstrates the dances on the pool deck, he stretches the movements out and slows them down to mimic the resistance of the water.
“I do them slower because of the water, which adds a strength component to the cardio workout,” the 34-year-old licensed Zumba instructor said.
For the women who faithfully pull on their bathing suits every Tuesday morning to attend Falxa’s class, the added strength training is a bonus.
“It’s fun, I love it, and it just makes you feel better,” said Erna Leavitt, 83, of Cambridge, who attends Aqua Zumba and two or three water aerobics classes every week.
“If I didn’t come here, I’d still be in my nightgown drinking coffee. This gets me up and out,” said 68-year-old Mary Cronin, a Waltham resident whose “bad knee” put an end to her 3-mile daily walks.
The women in the class have formed a camaraderie they say helps motivate them to get in the pool, not only to move to the rhythm of dance beats, but also to work out in more traditional water aerobics classes.
Falxa, who teaches classes at many area YMCAs, says he tailors his choreography to the demographics of each group, making some classes more strenuous and some less.
He said while his classes are similar to water aerobics classes that also use music, Zumba movements are specifically choreographed with an emphasis on Latin beats.
“The time just flies by because the routines go with the beat of the music,” Jean McCoy of Waltham said. McCoy, who gave her age as “senior citizen,” comes to the Y with her 99-year-old father three times a week.
And while Falxa’s classes are filled with women, there are also men who participate. “At the Cambridge Y, my class is 50 percent men,” he said.
Falxa became hooked on Zumba when he attended his first class to support his wife, who was starting a fitness program. He shed 40 pounds, and his wife lost 20, he said.
He decided to become an instructor, and has been teaching classes for the past two and a half years.
“I was really kind of depressed, and antisocial before I started doing Zumba and getting fit,” Falxa said. “But the exercise, the music, something about it all made me feel better.”