Water Aerobics

Medically Reviewed by Ross Brakeville, DPT on March 23, 2023
4 min read

Take the plunge and try this low-impact workout that builds muscle strength and boosts your endurance. It's fun, and it can be as challenging as you like.

A water aerobics class typically lasts an hour. An instructor will lead you through a series of moves, often set to music to keep you motivated.

Each water aerobics class includes a warm-up, cardio and strength-training exercises, and a cooldown. Expect exercises like water walking, bicep curls, leg lifts, and kickboard moves. You won't be swimming, and most water workouts are done in the shallow end of the pool.

The buoyancy of the water is easy on your joints. That makes water aerobics a good choice if you have joint problems, chronic pain, or are recovering from injury. It's also popular among seniors and pregnant women.

Though it's low-impact, you can make the workout harder. For example, do more repetitions of each move or go faster during the workout. An advanced class might include underwater interval training.

You'll rev up your heart rate, but the water won't jar your joints.

Core: Yes. Most water aerobics classes include lunges, side leg lifts, and other moves that work your abs and other core muscles.

Arms: Yes. Moves like underwater bicep curls will work the arms. Pool noodles and kickboards can also be used for added resistance.

Legs: Yes. Walking, jogging, jumping jacks, and underwater kicks are popular in water aerobics workouts.

Glutes: Yes. Squats, lunges, and high knee kicks help tone your glutes.

Back: Yes. Low-impact water workouts can help strengthen back muscles and ease back pain.

Flexibility: Yes. Water aerobics helps improve your flexibility.

Aerobic: Yes. Even low-impact water aerobics will get your heart rate pumping.

Strength: Yes. The resistance of the water helps tone muscles and build strength.

Sport: No. This is a fitness activity, not a sport.

Low-Impact: Yes. Water aerobics is a great low-impact workout.

Cost: You’ll need to register for classes at a gym or community center that offers water aerobics.

Good for beginners? Yes. Water aerobics is an excellent workout if you’re new to exercising.

Outdoors: You can do water aerobics in outdoor pools when the weather allows.

At home: If you have a pool, you can do a water aerobics workout at home.

Equipment required? Yes. You need access to a pool. Instructors often use pool noodles, kickboards, and foam weights designed for water aerobics classes (rec centers provide this equipment).

Water aerobics are just about perfect. Even though being in the pool seems very relaxing, it is still giving your heart and muscles a great workout. Water exercise can even put you in a better frame of mind.

It’s great if you don’t like to sweat but really want a good workout. There are classes for every fitness level, and you can get in your cardio as well as your strength training, all in the same session.

Water aerobics are not for you if you prefer a fast-paced, heart-pounding workout. Even though certain underwater moves use more energy, such as walking, and burn more calories, they are much slower than if you did them on land. To minimize risk to your skin, wearing pool shoes will help prevent breakdown. 

Is It Good for Me If I Have a Health Condition?

It's always good to check in with your doctor before starting a new workout.

Water aerobics is a great way to improve your heart health. It can lower your blood pressure and your “bad” LDL cholesterol while raising your “good” HDL cholesterol.

If you have diabetes, water aerobics can help you shed extra pounds while you stay cool in the pool. Like other aerobic exercises, it will help keep your blood sugars under control. But it is easier on the feet than most other exercises. This is important because diabetes can cause problems with the nerves and blood flow to your feet, making you more likely to get injured.

Your doctor can tell you if you need to make any changes in your diabetes treatment plan. Tell your instructor or the lifeguard that you have diabetes, and keep your medical alert jewelry on when you're in the pool.

Exercising in water is great if you have arthritis or problems with your knees or back. You will put less pressure on those aching joints, and be able to spend more time working out. It can help your joints move better and hurt less. It will also help you lose extra weight, so you can be more joint-friendly even out of the water.

There are many water-based exercise programs for people with disabilities as well. Check your local YMCA or fitness club to see what is offered.

If you are pregnant, exercising in water takes a load off your back, legs, and feet. You will feel as light as you did months ago while getting some activity. As long as you have been active before becoming pregnant and stay healthy, you will likely be able to continue at the same fitness level.