Remarkable Benefits of Aquatic Exercise

Elderly woman enjoying the benefits of aquatic exercise at Cambridge Fitness Wilmington.
Exercising in the swimming pool is enjoyable for all age groups and fitness levels!

Aquatic exercise has been a popular way of keeping fit for years—particularly for people with certain health problems, those recovering from injury, or the elderly.

Exercising in water is a growing trend among younger fitness enthusiasts and healthy baby boomers in places with pools, gyms, and other facilities offering state-of-the-art, specialized training. As a result, aqua exercise has the potential to appeal to a wider range of people than ever.

Regardless of your fitness level, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy working out in the pool.


You may ask yourself, “How does water aerobics help your body?”

Here are the remarkable benefits of aquatic exercise:

Exercising in the swimming pool burns a high number of calories during and after a workout.

It renews your energy level as it releases your stress and tension.

The water environment offers privacy. If you hate the idea of jumping around a room full of people in gym clothes, exercising in water is a great alternative.

Exercising in water requires you to support only 20% to 50% of your body weight, making exercises easier to perform.

The water’s buoyancy lowers the risks of stress-related injuries—especially in joints—and allows muscles to work their full range of motion. 

A massaging effect is created when your muscles are surrounded by water.

With indoor pools, it’s a great year-round activity.

Water exercise is commonly advocated for people with the following conditions:

  • Arthritis
  • Back pain
  • Joint problems
  • MS
  • Soft-tissue injury
  • Cardiac patients


One of the benefits of aquatic exercise is that just being in the water causes you to exercise. Every move you make in the water has to be deliberate to resist the continual pressure of the water on your body.

Water Resistance

Because the water is a thicker medium than air, by moving in the water, the amount of resistance from the water can range from 4 to 44 times that of air. Using the resistance of the water in exercise is like exercising with weights or machines on land, but safer.


Individuals with COPD and other lung diseases have benefited considerably from exercises while in the water.  Most of them are extremely thrilled that they can participate throughout the entire water aerobics class without fatiguing or needing an inhaler.  The support of the water allows the individual to get their heart up while helping to sustain a good oxygen saturation in the bloodstream.


In chest-deep water, approximately 80% of your body weight is buoyant. Therefore, you really are bearing only 20% of your weight when you exercise. Exercise in the water is much safer, and your joints and muscles are virtually stress-free.

Water Temperature

The water temperature is the same all year long. You do not need to contend with the variability of the elements; heat, cold, rain, snow, wind, etc.

Cooling Effect

Because of your constant movement in the water, cool water is continually moving around you, cooling you while you are exercising. You never feel overheated and sweaty.

Massaging Effect

The hydrostatic pressure of the water on your body, joints, muscles and internal organs, massages, and comforts all parts of your body while you exercise. You never feel fatigued.


Because aquatic exercise is a low impact exercise, it is great for people suffering from joint problems or issues with weight. When you work out in the water, you get a total body workout. Exercising in water is a fast way to improve general strength, stamina, and cardiovascular fitness.

Cardiovascular benefits include the strengthening of the heart muscles, a lower heart rate, and improvement of oxygen delivery to muscles.

As a regular physical activity, aquatic exercise can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol.

Swimming provides effective weight management, depending on your weight. If you are between 100-200 lbs, you could burn an average of 250-520 calories in a half-hour of swimming.  

Water aerobics classes (exercises performed in a vertical position in either shallow or deep water), can burn between 400 and 500 calories in an hour.

Characteristics that are Unique to Exercising in Water


The biggest difference between land and water aerobics is the effect of gravity on your body. On land, gravity presses down at 100%. You feel this pressure in your back, hips, knees, and ankles when you perform land aerobic movements such as knee lifts, marching, jumping jacks, and side steps.

When you perform the same movements in water, you lessen gravity’s force on your body. If you stand in waist-level water, expect to reduce the force by 50%. If you stand in chest-deep water, expect to reduce gravity by 65 to 75%. When you are in deep water (neck-level), you only feel approximately 10% of your body’s weight.

Heart Rate

Your heart and breathing rates elevate when you exercise. Water aerobics requires slightly slower heart rates than land aerobics.

The Aquatic Exercise Association cites 3 reasons for this:

The first is the lessened gravity allows for an easier return of blood to the heart from the extremities.

The second is the cool water reduces the heart’s responsibility to cool the body. The heart does not have to beat as fast.

The final reason is the water pressure on the body. This pressure assists the blood flow through the veins and arteries. Even though heart rate response to the exercises is different, the benefits are similar. Both land and water aerobics improve cardiovascular function and reduce resting heart rates.

Muscular Response

Land aerobics usually include a strength training portion. You may do squats, lunges, pushups, or sit-ups to improve your muscle strength and endurance. On land, your body weight (or the addition of dumbbells) provides the resistance.

In the water, the resistance property of this environment provides training all the way around your body. Whatever direction you move (or if you lift your arm or leg), you are moving against the water pressure. This medium improves and maintains muscle strength and endurance. Also, dumbbells are used in the water similar to land movements for a gentle alternative to traditional strength training.

Class Structure

The structure of water aerobics classes begins with 5 to 10-minute warm-ups that use rhythmic, full-body movements such as walking, ankle touching, knee lifting, and jumping jacks.

After the warm-up, you might participate in 20 to 30 minutes of continuous cardiovascular and strength exercises such as jogging, dancing, and side movements such as twists or grapevines.

The aerobic workout is followed by a 5 to 10-minute cool-down to slow your heart rate and then 5 to 10 minutes of flexibility exercises.

Water classes improve flexibility when the body is warm while performing stretches.


Water is 800 times denser than air. The cushioning effect of the water provides both resistance and cushioning not found when exercising on land. The resistance of the water strengthens and tones muscles and affects more of the body when exercising if the water is chest-deep or higher. 

Energy Spent and Weight Loss

Due to the resistance of the water, participants in water aerobics expend more energy than participants in a land-based class when the intensity levels are equivalent.

Land-based aerobics participants had a higher heart rate than water aerobics participants, due to the effect of gravity on the body and hydrostatic pressure during exercise. 

Even with a greater expense of energy, you may not see a significant difference in the amount of weight or fat you lose, according to a study published in the “Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness.” Participants in both the land and water-based groups lost weight and body fat, and both groups saw a decrease in body measurements and skinfold when the exercises were comparable for intensity, duration, and frequency.

Joint Impact

Aerobics in a pool protects and cushions the joints during exercise because it is an extremely low-impact exercise. This is a benefit of aquatic exercise.

Aerobics in some land settings may provide low-impact exercises, such as dancing, rebounding and walking, but you do not have the cushioning protection that water provides.

One of the benefits of aquatic exercise is the improved range of motion. The buoyancy offered by the water reduces the effect of gravity and allows your joints more range of motion. If you have joint damage and/or range of motion issues, water aerobics may offer a better alternative for your fitness goals.

Fitness Level

Students of various ages, abilities, and physical conditions can benefit from water aerobics.

If you have severe low blood pressure, an infectious disease, open sores, allergies to chlorine or compromised breathing, water aerobics may not offer the best option.

If water makes you anxious because you can’t swim or have a fear of drowning, choose a land-based aerobics class.

Bone Density and Osteoporosis

Studies indicate that both forms of exercise in water and on land show improvements to an individual’s bone density rating relating to osteoporosis. 

When an individual is increasing muscle tension through their joints, the body will help develop stronger connections. This, in turn, increases bone density. 

On land, gravity is an important factor in increasing bone density through walking, squatting, and other weight-bearing activities.  Although land exercise has been said to have a larger effect on bone density, recent studies have shown improvements in osteoporosis through water exercise.   

It is wise for an individual to participate in both land and water exercise at least 2 times per week. Use land exercise to focus on balance, strength training, and flexibility using resistance through weights or resistance bands.

Water can be utilized for aerobic exercise due to its supportive properties and safety features to decrease the risk of falling and muscle strain. 

At Cambridge Fitness, we offer a variety of exercise classes including aquatics. Click here to download our aquatics class schedule.

Contact us to learn more about the benefits of aquatic exercise!