Fitness Articles

5 Fun Ways to Dive In to Aquatic Exercise

Water Workouts that Really Work


Water Aerobics
Aerobics isn't just for the group exercise room. Practically anything you can do on terra firma, you can also do in the pool. Water aerobics isn't necessarily your grandma's water aerobics class! Many health clubs offer classes such as group cycling (with special waterproof bicycles), kickboxing, Pilates, yoga and more in the H20, making them exciting, fun and varied. Some classes will even use special gloves, noodles, balls or other pool fitness props that provide resistance and fun. Classes vary in intensity and duration, so just be sure to ask a fitness professional at your club which class is suitable for you. If you really love this type of water aerobics, consider investing in a pair of water shoes to give you better traction on the pool floor and prevent excessive rubbing on your feet—your tootsies will thank you for it!
How to get started: Check out your health club's aqua exercise schedule, or create your own water aerobics class for one. For a quick full-body workout, do a minute of each: standing front kicks, standing back kicks, standing side kicks, jabs, crosses, upper-cuts and leg raises (hold on to the ladder with your arms and draw your knees up like you would on a captain's chair at the gym). If your pool happens to stock kick boards, add on some cardio by kicking your way from one side of the pool to the other. Kick boarding is easier than swimming laps, especially if you're not a strong swimmer, but it's still great for the cardiovascular system.
Water Running and Walking
Think that running and walking is just for the road or the treadmill? Think again! You can walk and run in the pool! And it's an amazing workout that'll later make walking and running outside seem like a breeze. Beginners will want to start walking or jogging the shallow end of the pool, while intermediate and advanced exercisers can begin in the middle or deep end of the pool while wearing a buoyancy belt. Once you've found your place in the water, all you have to do is walk or run like you do in real life—same form with your head up and your posture tall with a forefoot strike (if running) or heel-to-toe strike (if walking). Walking or running in water boasts a similar calorie burn as on land, minus all the jarring and jostling!
How to get started: Despite the ease of this activity on your joints, walking and jogging in water will feel much more intense than it does on land. Start off doing short intervals of 2 to 3 minutes of fast walking or jogging followed by at least a minute of rest. As your fitness builds, increase the length of your walking/running intervals. And remember that you want to be actually walking or running, not just "bicycling" your legs in the water. Do just as you would on land!
Treading Water
It sounds simple, but treading water will get your heart rate up and provide a great cardiovascular workout. In addition, treading water is an important skill to have next time you hit the beach or go out to the lake house for a getaway weekend! Another plus is that you need no equipment—just yourself and enough water that most of your body is submerged. Just remember to listen to your body and always have a poolside or ladder, kick board, noodle or other flotation device nearby in case you need a break. If you can tread water at a moderate pace for a full 20 minutes, you'll burn about 91 calories. Mix that with a few of the water aerobics moves above, and you've met your fitness goals for the day!
How to get started: If you're pool-shy and like the comfort of being able to touch the bottom, stay in the shallow end. Stand on your knees and get those arms and legs moving side to side and up and down to keep your knees from touching the bottom. You'll target your upper body and build your treading-water confidence. If you’re a stronger swimmer, jump in the deep end and tread for anywhere from 30 seconds to 20 minutes, building up gradually. If you want an extra challenge, you can even lift your hands out of the water and above your head to make your lower body do more work. Trust me, you’ll feel the burn!
Submerged Resistance Training
The pool isn't just for cardio. The extra resistance of the water makes it ideal for building muscle with strength workouts. In fact, many of the moves above will not only get your heart pumping, but will also have your muscles firing. Some health clubs will even supply members with aquatic dumbbells so you can get that extra burn. And don't forget about using the entire pool area for your workout. Getting in and out of the deep end via a ladder can be an exercise in and of itself, and you have plenty of space outside of the pool for push-ups, wall sitts and more!
How to get started: Bring your traditional strength-training routine into the water! Do a few squats in the shallow end of the pool followed by deep lunges to work the lower body. Then hit the pool deck for a few regular push-ups or use the side of the pool for modified push-ups. Grab those aqua dumbbells for some biceps curls and triceps kickbacks and then finish off your strength workout with a bicycle, where you lean back against the side of the pool and do a bicycle crunch in the water. Get creative and work those muscles: pushing, pulling, lifting and rowing against the resistance of the water.
Lap Swimming
We couldn't have a list of water workouts without traditional lap swimming, now could we? Swimming laps is a full-body, can't-beat-it workout challenge. While most of us won't be Michael Phelps or Dara Torres in the water, we can definitely channel our inner Olympian by practicing the crawl/freestyle, breaststroke, backstroke, and sidestroke in the pool. Heck, even doggie paddling is a good workout! In fact, swimming laps can burn more than 500 calories in an hour if you keep your pace up.
How to get started: If you don't feel like a fish in water, try easier strokes like the sidestroke, breaststroke or dog paddling. Ask a lifeguard or pool attendant where the beginner lane is on the pool, jump in and get to swimming. If you really enjoy the water and want to improve, consider investing in adult swim lessons where you can perfect your form and learn new strokes!
Indoors or out, water exercise offers options for people of all fitness and ability levels. It's a great way to stay cool in the summer months or escape from the cold or rain (provided your local swimming hole is an indoor one!), whether you want a low-impact workout or a new challenge. Ready to jump in? I hope so—the water is waiting!
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About The Author

Jennipher Walters Jennipher Walters
Jenn is the CEO and co-founder of the healthy living websites, and A certified personal trainer, health coach and group exercise instructor, she also holds an MA in health journalism and is the author of The Fit Bottomed Girls Anti-Diet book (Random House, 2014).

See all of Jenn's articles.

Member Comments

  • Walking laps in chest-deep water (1 forward, 1 backward) was the first real exercise I could manage after both knee replacements. It strengthens muscles both front and back while supporting body weight. I still do 10 minutes as a warmup for lap swimming. - 12/27/2015 10:05:07 AM
    I discovered deep water aerobics this summer and love it. I take two classes a week in the evening under the moon at the community aquatic center at an amazing low cost of $3 a lesson. As the weather cools, I hope to stick with it. We're talking central California winters, not Michigan, after all. There are people of all ages and abilities in the class, working at their own level. Even a few men! - 9/15/2015 12:44:05 PM
  • I was born a Aquarius and hated to get out of the pool as a baby at the age of 64 I swim a hour daily and still hate to get out of the pool . I do push ups and push outs at the end of my
    laps I swim a hour a day and sometimes more and usually at least 5 times a week at aquatic
    center at the end of my street love it love it love it . - 9/13/2014 8:04:17 PM
  • This might sound crazy, but my favorite part about swimming laps is the turns. It kills me that I can't do real laps in my parent's pool and that it has to be a vacation only treat for me until I spring for a membership at a gym with a pool. The underwater turn and kickoff is just so exhilarating. - 8/19/2014 12:06:25 AM
  • ???? Warm humid air is about the worst thing for my asthma - 8/16/2014 12:45:56 PM
  • When I used to go "swimming " with an ex-neighbour I used to go lift weights and then I would go and practice kata in the water the extra resistance was great. - 4/8/2014 9:53:29 PM
  • I do at least 80 laps at the pool whenever I go! I have yet to see a youngster go that many! he he - 6/21/2013 5:37:49 PM
  • I do at least 80 laps at the pool whenever I go! I have yet to see a youngster go that many! he he - 6/21/2013 5:37:49 PM
  • I started out swimming one mile each time I went to the pool. I am up to 1-1/4 each time I swim now. I do this every other day if I can; but at least 4 times a week otherwise! - 6/21/2013 5:36:13 PM
  • I LOVE LOVE LOVE water exercises! I hit the pool 4-5 times a week. - 5/30/2013 8:06:55 PM
  • I have discovered a class which is called aqua cardio - I guess its a blend of water jogging and aerobics... We wear the bouyance belts, jog forwards and backwards and even stationary, but also do cross country skiing, jumping jacks, rocket kicks all either forwards, backwards and in place (and let me tell you the workout when you go from moving forwards to backwards without turning around - the water is still moving one way while you TRY to go the other!) and then we do arm, leg and core exercises in place. Best of all this is through the high school at $4! a class! - 5/30/2013 11:46:23 AM
  • When I was young, I was afraid of the water. I knew how to swim. I had taken beginning swimming in college. I just was not comfortable in the water. The YWCA where I lived offered a beginning swimming class focused on people who were afraid of the water. Fraidy Cats. What a godsend. Now it's 50 years later, and I can't get enough of the water. There is nothing that gives me a better workout or relaxes me more.

    Warning: It DOES make you hungry.

    Enjoy. - 5/30/2013 8:48:08 AM
  • I am scare of the water because I don't know how to swim. But I really like watet aerobics. - 5/5/2013 2:38:42 PM
  • I'm one of those rare people who absolutely hates swimming. I used to like it as a kid but when I got older, no thanks. It was bad when I was a camp counselor and HAD to swim with my counselor. :( Such a shame, since doing laps would be wonderful exercise for me this summer. - 5/13/2012 11:35:33 PM
  • I LOVE the water. I've been contemplating beginning a water aerobics class and after reading this, I think I will. - 4/9/2012 10:54:20 AM

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