Exercises for the Pool

Looking to implement low-impact exercises into your summer routine? Look no further than the pool! The buoyancy of water supports your body, thus lessening the pressure on your joints. Plus, the water provides resistance to movements, which helps strengthen muscles even without the use of weights.1–3 Individuals with conditions such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, back pain, balance problems, and joint pain/injuries, as well as those recovering from surgery, can especially benefit from aquatic exercise.1,2

Preparing for aquatic exercise

In general, aquatic exercise should be done in waist- or chest-high water. Faster movements provide more resistance than slower movements, so exercise at a speed that feels right to you. Although equipment is not required for the aquatic exercises below, certain equipment, such as webbed water gloves, foam dumbbells, and kickboards, can be utilized to add resistance. As with any workout, make sure you drink plenty of water.1,2


  • Starting in waist-high water, walk forward for 10 to 20 steps, making sure you do not walk on your toes. Keep your arms in the water and move them as you walk. 
  • Walk the same distance backward. Continue for 5 to 10 minutes.
  • To increase resistance, hold a kickboard vertically in the water.1,2

SIde steps/shuffles

  • Start at the side of the shallow end. Maintain an upright posture, engaging your core and keeping your toes pointed toward the pool wall.
  • Step or shuffle to the other side of the shallow end, then back to the starting side. Repeat twice in each direction.2,3

Knee lift with extension

  • Stand in waist-high water, standing against the pool wall if necessary. Lift one knee until it is level with your hip.
  • Extend your leg so it is parallel with the pool floor and hold for a few seconds.
  • Lower your leg to the pool floor without bending it. Repeat with the other leg. Continue for 5 to 10 minutes.1,2

Scissor kicks

  • Hold onto the pool ledge or a kickboard and lift your legs until you are in a horizontal position. Make sure you maintain a straight line from your head to your tailbone.
  • Kick your legs back and forth, making sure your knees are not locked. Continue for 1 to 3 minutes. You can also try other types of kicks, such as dolphin or breaststroke kicks.1,3 

Lateral arm lifts

  • Standing in shoulder-height water, raise your arms until they are level with your shoulders.
  • Lower your arms to your sides. Continue for 2 to 3 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions. Add foam dumbbells to increase resistance.1


  • Stand at arm’s length from the pool edge and position your hand shoulder-width apart on the edge.
  • Keeping your body straight and feet on the floor, lower your chest to the pool edge. 
  • Press your weight on your hands to return to the starting position. Continue for 2 to 3 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions.2


  1. Cronkleton E. Try these 8 pool exercises for a full-body workout. Healthline. 18 Jul 2019. Accessed 5 Jul 2023.
  2. Mulcahy JA. 10 exercises to do in the pool. Choose PT. Revised 30 Mar 2022. Accessed 5 Jul 2023.
  3. Fetters KA. 7 pool exercises for a fat-burning water workout. Everyday Health. 13 Feb 2023. Accessed 5 Jul 2023.  

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