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Whether you’re looking for a low impact workout or just want to cool off, pool exercises can hit the spot.
Aquatic workouts can also offer something to any fitness level.
Check out these great aquatic exercise options to switch it up this summer (or anytime!)
*Bright flowered bathing cap not required*
Disclaimer: This content is for educational purposes and is not medical advice. Read the full disclaimer.
WHAT IS AQUATIC EXERCISE?
Swimming has always made the list of high intensity, low impact workouts.
But what happens when you’re not a swimmer?
If your technique is not up to par, jumping in and just trying to swim until you get tired can be a recipe for a shoulder injury.
But that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck.
For those who aren’t into laps but want to cool off with some pool exercises, keep reading.
Aquatic exercise or water exercise is different than lap swimming. Water exercise is performing aerobic and resistance training exercises in a pool.
The water aerobics class scene has taken off in recent years, with new programs emerging like Aqua Zumba, Aqua HIIT, Aqua Barre, and Aqua Yoga. You can find some of these programs offered at fitness centers across the country.
There’s also plenty of things you can do on your own (ideas below).
BENEFITS OF AQUATIC EXERCISE
You might think exercise is exercise, right?
Water exercise differs somewhat from land-based exercise. Here are some aquatic exercise benefits to consider.
- The water’s buoyancy decreases weight bearing by 70-80% in chest-deep water and 50% in waist-deep water.
- The viscosity of the water provides resistance for strengthening activities.
- The hydrostatic pressure of the water can help decrease swelling from a recent injury or chronic issues such as arthritis and may also contribute to increased proprioception (joint position sense).
- Allows for movement with less pain
- Warmer water temperatures can promote relaxation and greater ease of movement.
- It can be a fun way to cool off and get your fitness on during the summer and can be done year-round if you have access to a pool.
A water exercise program can be especially beneficial for those with joint pain or arthritis.
LIMITATIONS OF AQUATIC EXERCISE
- Exercises may not translate to functional gains on land – so don’t swap out all your activities for water exercise.
- Most studies have been performed on populations with specific medical conditions or athletes, therefore it’s difficult to apply to a general population.
- Access to facilities
- Can be more time consuming
- Water-based exercise may not be suitable or safe for those who don’t know how to swim
- Not a great option for those with sensitivity to chemicals, open wounds or post-surgery, or issues with incontinence.
- If the water temperature is on the warmer side, it’s easy to get dehydrated and not realize it.
AQUATIC EXERCISE IDEAS
CARDIO OPTIONS FOR POOL EXERCISE
- Aqua jogging
- Water walking: forward – backward – sideways
- Jumping jacks
- Kickboard drills
- Tuck jumps
- Scissor jumps
- Squat jumps
UPPER BODY STRENGTHENING FOR POOL EXERCISE
- Noodle push down
- Triceps kickback with water dumbbells
- Alternate punching with water dumbbells
- Biceps/triceps with water dumbbells or webbed gloves
- Push-ups at the wall
- Triceps dips at the wall
LOWER BODY STRENGTHENING FOR POOL WORKOUTS
- Single leg kicks in all four directions
- Kicking at the wall or with a kickboard
- Shallow water squats/jumps
CORE EXERCISES FOR THE POOL
- Rotation with aqua dumbbells or noodles
- Mountain climbers at the wall
- Knee to chest at the wall
- Water taxi seated on a kickboard
STRETCHING IN THE POOL
Stretching is similar to if you were out of the water. You can also use steps and ladders as an assist with the placement of arms or legs.
Exercises can be performed for 30 seconds to 1 minute at a time.
You can get creative and utilize intervals to make it more like an aquatic HIIT workout.
YOUTUBE AQUATIC WORKOUTS
To help you visualize these ideas and more, I’ve curated a few youtube videos for you.
This video, 50 Pool Exercises | Choices Coach | Sara Moser, gives a fun underwater look at 50 different exercises you can do in the pool.
This video by Ruth Ungerer Health Coach demonstrates a cardio-based 10-minute pool workout.
For a low impact water-walking workout, check out Ask Doctor Jo. She has several videos on aquatic exercise/therapy.
For my hardcore athletes, check out the Bas Rutten personal pool workout. Warning: this is not your Grandma’s water aerobics!
AQUATIC EXERCISE EQUIPMENT
It wouldn’t be a pool
exercise party if there weren’t cool stuff you could buy.
Add some flair to your pool workout with these extras.
Kickboards are made out of dense foam, float, and can be used for kicking, pushing, and pulling exercises.
If you’re up for the challenge, you can always try the water taxi! Just as long as you don’t mind going under if you fall off.
Webbed gloves are just like they sound and are used to add resistance to upper body exercises.
I would caution against swimming with webbed gloves or paddles as they have been known to cause shoulder issues if used too much with improper technique.
The opposite of land dumbbells. They float!
Water dumbbells are made of foam and provide resistance when pushed through the water.
They can be used to add resistance to upper body exercises.
WATERPROOF FITNESS TRACKER
What fun is it to workout and not get credit?
Make sure you have a waterproof fitness trackers to capture all your hard work.
You can read more about the pros and cons of fitness trackers in The Ultimate Guide to Fitness Trackers.
A similar concept to pool dumbbells, and you can also sit on them and perform movements like underwater bicycle and other kicking motions.
Noodles are a seasonal pick up at any store.
Yes, they make these. Water sneakers can provide cushion and traction to your water workout.
MORE POOL WORKOUT TIPS
You can be easily tricked into thinking you don’t need water because you’re in a pool.
Wrong! You can still get dehydrated, especially in sky-high temperatures. It’s impossible to assess how much you’re sweating and can skew your perception of exertion.
Keep a full bottle of water near by during your workout.
YOU CAN STILL GET HURT
Aquatic exercise may be a low impact workout option, but it’s far from injury-free.
Whether it’s cardio or pool weights, it’s possible to overdo it, so always listen to your body.
Once again, don’t overdo it. Cooler water temperates can skew your ability to perceive exertion.
A pool is a bad place to start feeling woozy.
DON’T STOP BREATHING
When performing exercises in the pool, it’s common to start holding your breath.
Give your breathing priority and check in frequently.
OBSERVE ALL POOL SAFETY PRECAUTIONS
As a former lifeguard at a super strict facility, pool safety is my jam.
It’s still a pool, which comes with its own risks. Don’t ignore normal water safety precautions.
Visit the water safety page at the American Red Cross to brush up, including what to do in an emergency. This article also includes plenty of water safety tips for home pools that are often forgotten.
Stick to shallow water workouts if you’re not a strong swimmer and always have someone with you.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON AQUATIC WORKOUTS
Aquatic exercise provides another venue to get your fitness on and boasts a host of low-impact options from low to high intensity. Aqua exercise let’s you work on cardiovascular fitness and muscle strength as part of a well-rounded fitness routine.
As with any workout, always listen to your body and don’t work through pain.
How intense does aquatic exercise get?
You’ll have to wear your waterproof fitness tracker and let me know!
featured image source: Nomadsoul1 / depositphotos.com
Becker, Bruce. (2009). Aquatic Therapy: Scientific Foundations and Clinical Rehabilitation Applications. PM & R : the journal of injury, function, and rehabilitation. 1. 859-72. 10.1016/j.pmrj.2009.05.017.
Buckthorpe M, Pirotti E, Villa FD. BENEFITS AND USE OF AQUATIC THERAPY DURING REHABILITATION AFTER ACL RECONSTRUCTION -A CLINICAL COMMENTARY. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2019;14(6):978-993.