For people with chronic pain or arthritic joints, the idea of getting a good cardiovascular workout may seem impossible. On the contrary, it's entirely possible if you take the ideal solution and go for a dip in the pool.
Participating in water aerobics exercises has been shown in research published by the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in September 2014 to have numerous benefits, including reduced pain, improved physical function and higher overall quality of life.
For an effective aerobic workout in the pool, try a few water-oriented exercises.
1. Walk This Way
Using the water to add resistance, this basic cardio exercise can be progressed to provide an aerobic challenge.
HOW TO DO IT: Stand in chest-level water and face towards the other side of the pool. Walk with a steady pace to the far end and continue to go back and forth across the pool while maintaining a brisk speed. The exercise can be made easier by moving to more shallow water. The Mayo Clinic suggests making this exercise more challenging by wearing hand webs.
2. Jumping Jacks in the Pool
Jumping jacks activate the muscles in your arms and legs while incorporating a leaping motion to get your heart rate going.
HOW TO DO IT: Stand in chest level water with your feet together and your arms at your side. Simultaneously bring your legs apart and your arms over your head as you jump in the air. Then, jump again and return your arms and legs to your side.
3. Make Your Heart Pump Fast
Treading water helps elevate your heart rate without putting undue pressure on your joints. Harvard Health Publishing says that a 155-pound person will burn 372 calories in 30 minutes treading water. The same amount as doing 30 minutes of laps.
HOW TO DO IT: Stand in water that is chin level. Paddle your arms and kick your legs as your lower body rises off the ground. Continue to move your extremities as though you were swimming in place without letting your feet touch down again.
4. Skipping Rope Exercise
This exercise activates the hip muscles while adding a jumping motion to increase your pulse.
HOW TO DO IT: Stand in shoulder level water. Hold a noodle in front of you with arms at shoulder height. Jump straight up while simultaneously tucking your knees in towards your chest and bring the noodle underneath you and behind you. Swimming.org offers a simpler version where you don't use the noodle at all.
5. Shuffle to the Side
The side shuffle incorporates a lateral motion while activating the quadriceps and gluteus medius muscles.
HOW TO DO IT: Get into water that is thigh level. Bend your knees and sit your butt back slightly into a mini squat. Hold your body in this position as you quickly step sideways across the width of the pool. When you reach the other side, reverse directions and return to your initial spot.
6. Alternating Scissor Jump
Your hip flexors, glutes and rotator cuff muscles are active in this easy-to-perform cardio exercise.
HOW TO DO IT: Stand in water that reaches your chest with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms by your side. Quickly bring your right arm and left leg forward as you simultaneously bring your left arm and right leg backwards. The movement should mimic a jogging motion. Then, reverse the locations of your arms and legs. Continue to alternate between the two positions rapidly.
7. Kick Your Butt
Using the side of the pool for stability, this aerobic exercise increases your heart rate while also targeting the hamstring muscles.
HOW TO DO IT: Face the side of the pool in water that is waist deep. While remaining upright, quickly bend your right knee like you are trying to kick your buttocks before straightening it out and repeating the motion with the left leg. Continue to quickly alternate kicks between your two legs.
Guidelines and Precautions
For a proper aerobic workout, complete pool exercises in three- to five-minute increments for a total of 20 to 25 minutes per session. This can be done up to five times each week.
Be aware that the temperature of the pool can impact your comfort while working out and exercising in a warmer pool may be preferable. Be sure to speak to your doctor if you have any questions and stop if you experience any increased pain.
- Mayo Clinic: "Aquatic Exercises"
- Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation: "Effectiveness of Aquatic Exercise for Musculoskeletal Conditions: A Meta-Analysis"
- Swimming.org: "Tone Your Body With the Skipping Rope Exercise in Water"
- Harvard Health Publishing: “Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights”