Exploring some of the best aquatic exercise options and their benefits

best aquatic exercise options

If we didn’t learn from Michael Phelps and his 12,000 calorie a day diet, swimming is one of the best forms of exercise. Not only does it burn calories, but it is truly a total body workout and tops the list of low-impact exercises. Exercising in water provides a weightless environment, which means less stress on your joints. But it also provides great resistance for working and building muscle.

Here we’ll discuss not only swimming, but some of the most popular aquatic exercise options and their benefits.



“Let’s start with swimming,” this is what generally comes to mind when discussing water based exercises. As mentioned above, swimming is one of the best workouts you can do.

When you are swimming, your body is pushing against the resistance of the water, similar to running in sand. This means your muscles are working a little extra in order to move through the water. This helps build and sculpt the muscles in not only your arms, but your back, legs, and torso. It’s a total body workout.

Swimming keeps your heart rate up, especially if you’re performing multiple laps. And it does so with little impact on other parts of your body. You’re essentially performing a cardio and muscle strength workout simultaneously. Swimming also promotes a healthy heart and lungs.

But swimming doesn’t just offer physical benefits. For many people, being in or near the water is a relaxing experience. You’re often more relaxed and calm in a pool setting versus a noisy or crowded gym. Something is very soothing about the water. Moving through the water also helps with coordination, flexibility, and balance. If you’ve recently underwent an injury, swimming is a great, low-impact way to ease back into exercise. Swimming is also versatile, meaning if you can perform this exercise virtually anywhere there is water available from a pool to the beach or even a lake.

Another great thing about swimming is that it’s suitable for people of all ages and abilities. Whether you’re training for a triathlon, recovering from an injury or just starting your health and fitness journey, swimming is a great place to start. The four most common swimming styles are freestyle, butterfly, backstroke, and breaststroke. Each movement offers its benefits and targets different areas of the body.

Water Walking

This is great for warming up for those individuals who prefer hanging in the shallow end of the pool. In waist-high water, simply walk back and forth using long strides. You can also swing your arms back and forth in the water but be sure to keep good posture with a straight back and tight abdominal muscles. You can increase your pace as you become more comfortable in the water. Believe it or not but this exercise will definitely increase your heart rate.

Water Aerobics

Water Aerobics

If you prefer to keep your feet on the ground, there are still some amazing aquatic exercises you can perform that don’t involve swimming. Water aerobics is extremely popular and for good reason, it can help with weight loss, cardiovascular endurance, and mobility. There’s no equipment needed and you keep cool and relaxed in a water setting. Here are just a few exercises that are performed during water aerobics.

Kicking and Punching

If you enjoy kickboxing or karate-type exercises, you can bring these movements into the pool. Stand in water that allows your arms to remain submerged. While lifting and kicking straight out with your left hand, also punch forward with your right. Alternate your arms and leg as you keep your abdominal muscles tight. The twisting motion of using alternate sides of the body will help to tone and tighten your tummy. This activity also has cardiovascular benefits, not to mention it’s a lot of fun!


If you’re comfortable in the water and are able to tread, this exercise is great for toning. This workout move works all parts of the body including the back, arms, chest, and glutes! You’ll need to venture to the deeper end of the pool and begin treading water using circular motions with cupped hands. Once you get this motion down, extend one leg in front of you, while pointing the toe of your other leg toward the bottom of the pool, creating a K shape with your body. Hold this position for approximately five minutes while also squeezing the muscles in your buttocks. Continue treading water using small, circular motions. Alternate legs and continue performing these movements and hold for as long as you can.

Alternative Exercises

Here are a few additional ways to burn calories and tone muscles in the weightless environment of a pool.

Use the Edge

best aquatic exercise options

There is no shame in using the edge of the pool for support. Not everyone can tread water for extended periods of time or are even comfortable doing so. By utilizing the edge of the pool, individuals of all abilities can get the benefit of an aquatic workout.

Bicycle kicks are a great example of this. You can either prop yourself up on the edge of the pool, facing inward, using your elbows on the edge. Once positioned securely, simply rotate your legs through the water in a circular motion, like riding a bike. You can also hang onto the edge with your hands, belly and face down, then lift your legs up in the water and practice your flutter kicks.

Another great abdominal workout includes positioning yourself similar as you did when performing the bicycle. Extend your arms out straight along the edge of the pool, facing inward, with your back flat against the wall. Once in this position, straighten your legs and lift and lower them in unison, trying to keep your back against the wall and body stable. This is a great core workout!

Use Weights

There are light weights made specifically for use in the water. These are known as water dumbbells and are made of foam and plastic versus the land variety which are often made of metal. Though these weights feel pretty light when they’re outside the pool, once paired with the natural resistance of the water, you’re sure to feel the burn!

Adding water dumbbells into your aquatic routine will increase muscle toning and definition and bring an added level of resistance to your exercises. The exercises you can perform using water weights are very similar to those done on dry land. For example, you can perform bicep curls, flies, and tricep pushes.

Take it to the Pool

Exercising in the water is a great alternative to your normal exercise routine. Try incorporating some type of aquatic routine at least once a week. It will help to work your muscles in new and different ways. It will also give your joints and muscles a break because water offers such a low-impact workout. And don’t worry, you’ll definitely be burning calories and working every muscle in your body with natural resistance.

Article Submitted By Community Writer

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