Water exercise uses water for resistance. It also may be called water therapy, pool therapy, aqua therapy, or aquatics. It's good exercise for many people who have osteoarthritis, back pain, or fibromyalgia. It's often used to help people in rehab after a joint replacement.
Exercising in water can increase your flexibility and range of motion without putting stress on your joints and spine. Warm water also helps relax your muscles.
You can walk and run in water, as well as jump or kick. But it's not a weight-bearing exercise. So you will need to add other types of exercise to help make your bones stronger.
Water exercise is often done as part of a physical therapy program. Or you may find a program in a gym or health club.
Although water exercise is usually gentle, talk to your doctor before you start a program. You want to make sure that water exercise is right for your health condition.
Tips for exercising in water
- Consider working with a physical therapist or water aerobics instructor if you've never done water exercise before.
- You can create more resistance by moving quickly. But start slowly, and gradually increase intensity. Walk in the water for a few minutes. Then you can start jogging.
- The higher the water is on your body, the more resistance you feel. A water level between waist- and chest-high is a comfortable place to start. You get resistance but also have support and balance.
- If you want to vary your intensity (interval training), sprint by raising your knees higher to run quickly. Move your arms up and down quickly at your side. Do this for 15 seconds. Then return to a slow jog or walk in the water.
- Wear pool shoes or old athletic shoes. They will protect your feet if you're walking or running along the bottom of the pool.
- A flotation belt or "water wings" can create more resistance.
Other Works Consulted
- Basford JR, Baxter GD (2010). Therapeutic physical agents. In WR Frontera et al., eds., Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation: Principles and Practice, 5th ed., vol. 2, pp. 1691–1712. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
- Iverson MD (2013). Introduction to physical medicine, physical therapy, and rehabilitation. In GS Firestein et al., eds., Kelley's Textbook of Rheumatology, 9th ed., vol. 1, pp. 528–539. Philadelphia: Saunders.
Current as of: March 2, 2020
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Joan Rigg PT, OCS - Physical Therapy