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 aquatic exercise has been shown in research published by the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in 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 these exercises.
1. Water Walking
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.
2. Jumping Jacks
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. Water Treading
Treading water helps elevate your heart rate without putting undue pressure on your joints.
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. Knee to Chest Jump
This exercise activates the hip muscles while adding a jumping motion to increase your pulse.
HOW TO DO IT: Stand in waist level water. Jump straight up in the air while simultaneously tucking your knees in towards your chest. Then, bring your legs back under you as you land. To increase the resistance and lower the impact on your joints, progress the exercise by moving to chest level water.
5. Side Shuffle
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. 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. Butt Kick
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 the pool exercises above in 3- to 5-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.
- Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation: Effectiveness of Aquatic Exercise for Musculoskeletal Conditions: A Meta-Analysis
- Clinical Rehabilitation: Aquatic Therapy Improves Pain, Disability, Quality of Life, Body Composition and Fitness in Sedentary Adults with Chronic Low Back Pain. A Controlled Clinical Trial