If you’re looking for a change of pace, exercising in water will do you good. It challenges the cardiorespiratory system; improves muscular strength, endurance and flexibility; and tones the body.

Don’t worry if you aren’t an experienced swimmer—water aerobics and aquatic Pilates are two forms of water exercise that don’t require you to swim. And regardless of the activity you choose, your weight in water is about 10 percent of your weight on land, which puts less stress on bones, muscles and weight-bearing joints.

Water-based exercise is helpful for people with arthritis, pregnant women or those new to exercise. Check with your doctor before starting this exercise routine. One tip: When doing water workouts your heart rate tends to be lower than with comparable land-based exercise regimens.

Triceps Dips

This variation works the underarms, shoulders and back muscles and requires steady, even breathing.

  1. While standing in waist-deep water, place your hands about shoulder-width apart on the edge of the pool. Slowly lift your body out of the water until arms are fully extended but not locked. Then slowly lower yourself back to the original position.
  2. If you have difficulty pressing up, you can add a small jump off the bottom of the pool. Or, to increase the difficulty, bend your legs just enough so that your feet don’t touch the pool bottom as you lower down.
  3. Start with 5 and work up to 15 repetitions.

Jumping Jacks

A total body workout without strain.

  1. Stand in hip- or chest-deep water and move legs and arms laterally out to the side in a jumping jack motion. Then, at the same time, bring legs and arms back to neutral.
  2. As a variation, you can lift your arms in front of your body as your legs move laterally, or you can hold a hand bar in each hand to increase the resistance.
  3. Then, repeat the sequence 20 to 30 times.


Water provides 12 times more resistance than air, making this a powerful calorie burner.

  1. In hip- or chest-deep water, jog across the pool at a fast pace, moving arms back and forth in a rhythmic motion.
  2. Alternative: Do the same jogging motion but without touching your feet to the bottom of the pool. Or jog backward across the pool, which isolates leg muscles more effectively.
  3. Start with 1 lap and work up to 5 laps.

Jessica Smith has a Master’s degree in bioengineering. She holds certifications from the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America and the American College of Sports Medicine.

Illustrations by Karen Kuchar

From our sister publication, Diabetes Focus, 2006

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at HealthCommunities.com

Published: 30 Jun 2011

Last Modified: 03 Feb 2015