NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – Fitness pro Chaila Gilliams brings the energy with a capital “E” to her Aqua Zumba classes at Albertus Magnus College in New Haven.

“So with the water, you’re not feeling afraid. You just move. You feel like no one can really see you because you’re underwater a little bit. But you’re free to move. You have much more range of motion,” Gilliams explains.

Khianti Brooks got hooked on the class after hearing her mother talking about it last year.

“And I’m thinking, Oh, that’s cool. Little old lady water aerobics. I remember it from the eighties. And I said, man, I think I’ll go and move flow. And imagine my surprise when I got here, and it was aqua Zumba. It was faster, happier, harder than anything that I remember,” Brooks said.

In the past, Gilliams’ nonprofit, the Green Peacock Corporation, has received a grant to help prevent diabetes, covering people in the program over 60.

“I’m a life coach, so I teach people how to prevent the onset of Type 2 diabetes. And with that, we want to encourage not only nutritional habits, but we want to encourage physical fitness,” Gilliams said.

And these classes are a serious workout. You can burn anywhere from 300 to 900 calories an hour in that pool doing Zumba. The classes are paying off for Hamden’s Joy Morrison.

She recently had gastric sleeve surgery, along with Aqua Zumba, which has made a difference.

“I’ve lost over 100 pounds with Sheila,” Morrison said. “Oh, it’s a lot of fun. It’s a lot of fun. And it’s a good exercise.”

Gilliams tells News 8 that these workouts are just the right fit for people recovering from surgery.

“Water is excellent for them. They love it. A lot of people come off of injuries, hip replacement, knee replacement. So this allows them to get a full workout that they can’t do on land because of the impact,” Gilliams said.

For Albertus Magnus, it’s another great way to use the school’s athletic center for the greater good.

Whenever the opportunity presents itself for Albertus to be a good community partner and have groups such as these come in, we’re all for providing that opportunity and keeping those strong partnerships.

If you are interested in taking one of Gilliams’ classes, you must register beforehand. There is no set price, but she does ask for donations.

Learn more about the program at