Aqua Fitness and Weight Loss

Ivan Ferran, Director of Clinical Exercise,
Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa

At the famed Pritikin Center in Miami, Ivan Ferran has led classes like Aqua Fitness and Weight Loss since 1988. His booming, energetic voice and superbly fit body have inspired thousands worldwide. In his mid-sixties, he is healthy aging personified. Here are excerpts from a recent interview with Ivan.

Ivan in Aqua Fitness and Weight Loss Class with Guest

Ivan Ferran teaching an Aqua Fitness and Weight Loss Class at the Pritikin Center, with guest Dan Kanouse by his side. Mr. Kanouse has vacationed at Pritikin regularly for the past 30 years.

What is your favorite class to teach at Pritikin and why?

Aqua Fitness and Weight Loss is my favorite class to teach. That’s because almost everyone can participate, even those with physical challenges like bad knees. It’s often easier to move in water than on land.

Ivan teaches Aqua Fitness and Weight Loss

Ivan teaches many fitness classes at Pritikin, including electives like Aqua Fitness and Weight Loss as well as core classes like Strength Training.

The class is also a great full body workout. We’re burning a lot of calories in one hour’s time!

There’s one more bonus with aqua fitness classes compared to many other exercise classes. Fewer workout-related injuries happen in the water.

Do you use any props in your Aqua Fitness and Weight Loss class?

Yes. We use aqua gym props, which are basically long Styrofoam noodles with handles. We also use aqua bells, which are lightweight “weights” that you can fill with water in order to strength train and build muscle while in the water.

What exercises would you recommend for people who don’t have access to a gym or pool?

Just because you can’t make it to the gym, or swim in an aqua fitness class, doesn’t mean you can’t be fit. There are plenty of other ways to get and stay fit while on the road or in your own home.

For cardio conditioning, you can simply lace up some comfortable walking shoes and go for a fast-paced walk around your neighborhood. Or if you’re traveling and in a new city, have fun getting to know that city. Walk as much as you’re able. Think twice before taking a taxi or Uber.

For strength training, I recommend resistance bands. Because they’re so lightweight, they’re completely portable and can be used in a hotel room or any other space that’s at least the size of a large bathroom.

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Resistance bands are an excellent substitute when you can’t make it to the weight room. We use them all the time in strength training classes at Pritikin. Guests are surprised at how easy and effective a resistance band workout is.

Yoga is also amazing for the body. Our yoga instructors teach the basics here at Pritikin, and when our guests return home, many relax and wind down every day with these same basic yoga movements.

Like resistance bands, a yoga workout is highly portable. It’s a superb stretching modality. If being more flexible is one of your goals, yoga is a great place to start. Our classes here at Pritikin are very popular. Guests who may have been intimated by yoga in the past are pleased at how accessible Pritikin’s yoga classes are, and how well they’re now able to stretch.

If you had to name the Golden Rules of Exercise, what would they be?

I live by the FIT principle, which stands for Frequency, Intensity and Time.

Frequency means: How often are you working out? At Pritikin, our physicians and exercise physiologists recommend exercising at least 5 days a week. People with diabetes need more to keep their blood sugar under control, optimally, a workout every day.

Intensity means: How intense is your workout? With cardio workouts like walking, jogging, and spinning, we at Pritikin teach that moderate-intensity days should be alternated with vigorous-intensity days.

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Vigorous intensity means that you’re in the higher range of your Training Heart Rate Zone. Your Zone is determined at the beginning of your program here at Pritikin, and it’s based on the results of your Graded Exercise Test and physician analysis of your health and fitness capabilities.

Vigorous intensity for cardio workouts, or what is known here at Pritikin as Interval Training, allows you to work the muscle system at higher intensity in order to achieve the best calorie burn and best cardiovascular conditioning.

Intensity is also important for strength training. Our Pritikin guests get into the habit of asking themselves: “Am I really pushing myself to do my best? Am I lifting the heaviest weights I can safely lift?”

Time, the third important FIT principle, means: How long is your workout? At Pritikin, we exercise for at least 1½ hours each day. But we also help you craft a home exercise routine that works with your personal schedule. For some people, for example, three 15-minute walks interspersed throughout the day is much more achievable than one 45-minute bout. We also help you determine if the length of time you’re working out is effective enough.

As a general rule, we believe in doing cardio conditioning for 20 to 60 minutes each day, based on individual goals and capabilities, and, in addition, at least 5 to 10 minutes of warm-up time, and 5 to 10 minutes of cool-down time.

What is the secret to getting in shape quickly?

I prefer the term “conditioning” to “getting in shape.” The word “conditioning” better defines what’s most important, and that’s consistency. The more consistent you are, the more success you’ll have at achieving your fitness goals.

In addition to being consistent with your exercise, it’s vital to be consistent with your eating habits.

Healthy exercise and healthy eating, like the Pritikin Eating Plan, go hand in hand. Doing one without the other won’t make nearly as big of a difference as doing them together.

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