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What is Aquatic Exercise?

By Bethany Keene
Updated Feb 23, 2024
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Aquatic exercise is exercise that is performed in the water, typically in a pool, for the purposes of strengthening muscles and increasing physical fitness. Aquatic exercise is often praised because it is low-impact on the joints and bones, so it is frequently used for rehabilitation following an injury. There are many different ways to exercise in the water, and can offer both aerobic and strength benefits, as well as weight loss.

One of the simplest types of aquatic exercise is just swimming. Swimming is an aerobic exercise that also increases muscular strength over the entire body. In addition to swimming, water walking and water jogging are also popular aquatic exercises. Walking or jogging in water provides a gentle resistance without placing any impact on the joints. It is also possible to jog in deep water, without the feet even touching the bottom of the pool. As these exercises become easier, simply increase the speed or the length of time spent doing them to increase the difficulty.

Water weights are weights designed for use in the pool. Lifting weights underwater is a great aquatic exercise, because the resistance of the water makes it even more difficult. In addition, resistance bands or kickboards are also useful tools that can be used while exercising in the pool, to provide more resistance and a variety of exercises. To find specific exercises with which to use those items, ask an instructor at the gym or search online.

Another option for aquatic exercise is to use the side of the pool. One can hang off the side of the pool and gently raise and lower themselves, as in a modified pull-up. The water makes it easier to lift the body, while still giving the arms a workout. Another exercise for the side of the pool is to place the feet flat against the side of the pool, then float on the back, raising and lowering the body as in a sit-up. This can be an extremely difficult and effective exercise.

One of the main benefits to aquatic exercise is that just the very act of staying afloat in a pool is exercise, without even doing anything else. There are many water aerobics classes offered at gyms, or it is possible to work independently in the pool. It is important to be sure that a lifeguard is always on duty. It is equally important to stay hydrated when exercising in the pool, because the body sweats even in the water.

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Discussion Comments
By Kat919 — On Feb 02, 2012

Water aerobic exercise was a lifesaver for me in late pregnancy. I am usually a runner, but I got to a point where the weight of my belly was just too uncomfortable.

I'm not a good swimmer, so I didn't want to just start doing laps. I joined an aquatic exercise class at a gym. It was mostly older people who wanted to stay fit but had joint issues. They made a bit of a fuss over me in my condition, which was kind of nice by that time! On the days the class didn't meet, I would get in the pool and do some of the exercises I had learned just to keep moving.

Aquatic exercise is great for pregnancy because the water supports the weight of the baby. A lot of pregnant women also have joint issues because of the relaxin, and they benefit from taking the weight of the joints.

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