Splash Your Way into Fitness With Water Aerobics

Water aerobics, also known as aqua aerobics or aqua fitness, has been making waves as an engaging and effective exercise regimen for people of all ages and fitness levels. Whether you’re a seasoned fitness enthusiast or just starting your wellness journey, water aerobics is a fun water sport to embark on, offering you a unique and invigorating approach to staying active.

In this article, learn what you need to know as a beginner planning to join a water aerobics class or try it for yourself in your own swimming pool.

What is Water Aerobics?

Water aerobics, also known as aquatic aerobics or aqua aerobics, is a form of exercise that takes place in the water. It involves performing various aerobic movements and exercises while submerged in a swimming pool or shallow water. Water aerobics classes are typically led by an instructor who guides participants through a series of movements designed to improve cardiovascular fitness, strength, and flexibility.

The buoyancy of the water reduces the impact on joints and muscles, making water aerobics a low-impact exercise option suitable for people of all fitness levels, including those with joint problems or injuries. The water provides resistance, which helps to build strength and tone muscles. At the same time, the water’s buoyancy supports the body, reducing the risk of strain or injury.

Water aerobics routines often include a combination of exercises such as walking or jogging in place, jumping jacks, leg kicks, arm movements, and various stretching exercises. Additionally, props such as water dumbbells, pool noodles, or flotation belts may be used to add resistance or support during the workout.

Water aerobics classes are typically offered in community pools, fitness centers, or recreational facilities. They are suitable for people of all ages and fitness levels, and modifications can be made to accommodate individual needs or restrictions.

Benefits of Water Aerobics

Water aerobics is a fun way to exercise. It offers a range of benefits for both physical and mental well-being, such as:

It’s easy to start

Compared to other exercises that need equipment (which can be a little daunting to use at first) or other types of watersports (which require some skill and courage to do), water aerobics is easy. Think of it as doing aerobics, but only on the water, providing a little resistance. An instructor will lead you through a series of well-balanced exercises in these classes. Since there’s an instructor, you don’t have to know any routines before going to the class – they will teach you everything.

It’s a low-impact exercise

Water aerobics is gentle on the joints due to the buoyancy of the water. It reduces the impact on bones, muscles, and connective tissues, making it an excellent option for the elderly or individuals with arthritis, joint pain, or other musculoskeletal conditions. When you jump or run, the buoyancy of the water supports the body, absorbing some of the stress on the joints.

It promotes cardiovascular fitness

Just like regular aerobics, engaging in water aerobics increases the heart rate and promotes cardiovascular health. The resistance of the water adds an extra challenge, making the heart work harder to pump blood and oxygen throughout the body. Regular participation in water aerobics can improve endurance, lung capacity, and overall cardiovascular fitness.

It tones and strengthens the muscles

The water’s resistance provides an excellent opportunity to build strength and tone muscles. As you move through the water, your muscles must work against the resistance, increasing muscle strength and endurance. Depending on your workout, water aerobics can affect various muscle groups, including the arms, legs, core, and back. It can help improve muscle definition and overall body composition.

It improves flexibility and range of motion

Water aerobics involves performing exercises and stretches in a water environment, which can enhance flexibility and range of motion. The buoyancy of the water reduces the impact of gravity, allowing for increased joint mobility. Regular water aerobics can help maintain and improve flexibility, benefiting overall functional movement.

It’s calorie-burning

If you need a new way to burn calories, water aerobics is the way. It’s a fun and effective way to do so without the sweat! The water’s resistance and the continuous movement involved in water aerobics can elevate the heart rate and contribute to calorie burning. It can aid in weight loss efforts and weight maintenance goals.

It enhances balance and coordination

The unstable nature of water creates an environment that challenges balance and coordination. Performing exercises in the water forces the body to stabilize itself, promoting better balance and coordination skills. This can be particularly beneficial for older adults or individuals with balance issues.

It reduces stress

Water has a calming effect and can help reduce stress and anxiety. If you have a few minutes to spare, a short workout in the pool can help relieve stress. Being submerged in water provides a sense of relaxation and can alleviate tension in the body.

It fosters social interaction

Participating in water aerobics classes offers an opportunity for social interaction, making it a fun and enjoyable experience. Group classes provide a supportive and motivating environment where participants can connect with others. It gives you an opportunity to form new friendships!

It’s easy to involve the whole family

If you have a pool at home, including the family in working out is easy, providing you with a fun and healthy way to bond. Since kids love to swim in the pool, you can help them pay attention to physical fitness at an early age.

Remember to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new exercise program, including water aerobics, especially if you have any underlying health conditions or concerns.

How Does Water Aerobics Differ from Land-Based Aerobics?

While same as land aerobics – focusing on cardiovascular training – water aerobics differ in several ways, as buoyancy and water resistance are added. Here are some of their key differences:

Impact on the body

Water aerobics is a low-impact exercise that places less stress on the joints and bones than land-based aerobics. The buoyancy of the water reduces the impact of gravity, resulting in decreased strain on the body. In contrast, land-based aerobics involves direct contact with the ground, which can lead to higher impact forces on the joints, especially during high-impact movements like jumping.


Water provides natural resistance, which is absent in land-based aerobics. The resistance of the water in water aerobics requires the muscles to work harder, contributing to increased strength and toning. This resistance also makes water aerobics a great option for building muscular endurance. In land-based aerobics, resistance can be added through equipment such as weights or resistance bands.

Cooling effect

The water in water aerobics helps regulate body temperature by providing a cooling effect. This can be particularly beneficial during intense workouts, as it helps prevent overheating and excessive sweating. In contrast, land-based aerobics may cause more sweating and require additional measures to cool down the body.

Balance and stability

Water aerobics challenges balance and stability due to the water’s buoyancy and the ever-changing environment. The water’s resistance and the need to stabilize oneself in water create a unique balance training opportunity. Stability is more predictable in land-based aerobics, and balance training is usually done on a stable surface.

Range of motion and flexibility

Water aerobics promotes an improved range of motion and flexibility due to the buoyancy of the water. The reduced effects of gravity allow for easier and wider movement of joints, allowing greater flexibility. In land-based aerobics, movements are subject to gravity and may require additional warm-up and stretching exercises to achieve similar flexibility benefits.

Psychological and sensory experience

Water aerobics can provide a different psychological and sensory experience compared to land-based aerobics. Being in water can evoke a sense of relaxation and reduce stress. The buoyancy and support of the water can also create a feeling of weightlessness, which can be comforting and enjoyable for anyone.

Both water aerobics and land-based aerobics have their unique advantages and are suitable for different individuals and fitness goals. Choosing between the two may depend on factors such as personal preferences, physical abilities, specific health conditions, and desired outcomes.

Water Aerobics Formats

Water aerobics can be conducted in various formats, each with its own characteristics and objectives. Here are some common water aerobics formats:

1. Classic water aerobics

This format involves a series of rhythmic movements performed in the water. It typically includes exercises such as walking or jogging in place, jumping jacks, knee lifts, kicks, arm movements, and stretches. Classic water aerobics classes are suitable for all fitness levels and provide a well-rounded cardiovascular workout.

2. Aqua Zumba

How fun is this? Zumba is already known for its lively atmosphere, and when done on water, one can only imagine it’s double the fun! Aqua Zumba combines elements of traditional water aerobics with the energetic dance moves of Zumba. Participants perform choreographed dance routines set to upbeat music, incorporating Latin-inspired dance styles such as salsa, merengue, and cumbia.

3. Aqua kickboxing

Kickboxing is strenuous; if you are up to the challenge, this is the format for you. Aqua kickboxing brings the principles of kickboxing into the water. Participants perform a series of punches, kicks, and knee strikes while maintaining balance and stability in the water. Aqua kickboxing is an excellent way to improve cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, and coordination. It also offers a full-body workout and can help relieve stress and tension.

4. Aqua HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training)

Aqua HIIT combines high-intensity intervals with water-based exercises. It involves alternating periods of intense exercise with short recovery periods. Aqua HIIT workouts often include a mix of cardio exercises, strength training movements, and plyometric exercises. This format is known for its effectiveness in burning calories, boosting metabolism, and improving overall fitness levels.

5. Aqua circuit training

Aqua circuit training involves moving through a series of exercise stations set up in the water. Participants perform a variety of exercises at each station, targeting different muscle groups and aspects of fitness. It can include water jogging, dumbbell exercises, resistance band exercises, water cycling, or using other water-specific equipment. Aqua circuit training provides a versatile and challenging workout that enhances strength, endurance, and overall fitness.

6. Aqua yoga or aqua Pilates

These formats adapt traditional yoga or Pilates exercises to the water environment. Aqua yoga or aqua Pilates classes focus on improving flexibility, core strength, posture, and balance. Movements are performed with mindful awareness and controlled breathing, promoting relaxation and mindfulness in the water.

These are just a few examples of water aerobics formats, but there can be various other specialized classes or variations based on specific fitness goals or interests. It’s essential to find a format that suits your preferences, fitness level, and desired outcomes. Participating in water aerobics classes led by certified instructors can provide guidance and structure and ensure safe and effective workouts.

Equipment Used in Water Aerobics

Water aerobics often incorporates various types of equipment to enhance the workout experience and provide additional resistance or support. Generally, you can perform water aerobics without any equipment, but if the common equipment is typically used for adding weight and resistance to the workout:

  • Water dumbbells – Water dumbbells, also known as aqua dumbbells or water weights, are buoyant foam or plastic dumbbells designed for use in the water. They provide resistance when submerged and are used to strengthen and tone the upper body muscles, including the arms, shoulders, and chest.
  • Pool noodles – These are long, cylindrical foam tubes that float on the water’s surface. They can be used in different ways during water aerobics. For example, they can be held under the arms for extra buoyancy during deep-water exercises, placed between the legs for added support during leg exercises, or used as a prop for balance and stability exercises.
  • Kickboards – These are typically made of foam or plastic and provide buoyancy and support for the upper body. They can be used to isolate the lower body during exercises like leg kicks or flutter kicks, allowing for focused work on the leg muscles while maintaining stability and balance.
  • Resistance bands – These are elastic bands that can be used in water aerobics to add resistance to movements. They can be wrapped around the body or anchored to pool railings or steps, providing resistance for exercises that target the upper body, such as arm curls or chest presses.
  • Water gloves – Water gloves are gloves made of neoprene or similar materials that increase resistance when submerged in water. They are worn on the hands and fingers, providing additional resistance for upper body movements and helping to tone and strengthen the arms and shoulders.
  • Aqua jogging belts – Aqua jogging belts, also known as flotation belts or aqua belts, are buoyant belts worn around the waist to help maintain an upright position in deep water. They provide buoyancy and support, allowing participants to perform deep-water exercises like jogging or running without touching the bottom of the pool.
  • Aqua bikes or water cycling equipment – Aqua bikes are stationary bikes designed for use in the water. They provide a cardiovascular workout and allow participants to cycle against the resistance of the water. These bikes are equipped with adjustable resistance settings and can be used in shallow or deep water.
  • Resistance barbells – Resistance barbells are foam or plastic barbells that provide resistance in the water. They can be used for various upper body exercises to strengthen and tone the arms, shoulders, and back muscles.

These are just a few examples of the equipment commonly used in water aerobics. What you will use may vary depending on the class format, instructor, and facility. The equipment is designed to add resistance, buoyancy, or support, making the workout more challenging and effective while minimizing the impact on the joints.

What to Expect in a Water Aerobics Class

When attending a water aerobics class, here’s what you can generally expect:

  • Warm-up – The class will typically start with a warm-up session to prepare your body for the workout. The warm-up may include gentle movements and stretches to increase blood flow, loosen up the joints, and gradually raise your heart rate.
  • Cardiovascular exercises – The main portion of the class will involve cardiovascular exercises performed in the water. These exercises are designed to elevate your heart rate and improve cardiovascular fitness. Common cardiovascular movements in water aerobics include walking or jogging in place, jumping jacks, cross-country ski movements, and various leg and arm movements.
  • Strength and toning exercises – Water aerobics classes often incorporate strength and toning exercises to work on different muscle groups. These exercises may use water dumbbells, resistance bands, or other equipment. Examples of strength exercises in water aerobics include bicep curls, shoulder presses, chest presses, leg lifts, and squats.
  • Core exercises – Core exercises target the muscles of your abdomen, lower back, and pelvis. In a water aerobics class, core exercises may involve twists, crunches, knee lifts, or stabilization exercises that engage the core muscles and improve overall core strength and stability.
  • Flexibility and stretching – Towards the end of the class, there will typically be a cool-down period that includes stretching and flexibility exercises. These movements are designed to improve joint mobility, increase flexibility, and promote relaxation.
  • Modifications and options – A good water aerobics instructor will provide modifications and options for different fitness levels and abilities so that everyone can maximize their workout. They will offer variations to increase or decrease the intensity of the exercises to accommodate participants with different fitness needs or restrictions.
  • Water-specific techniques – Throughout the class, the instructor may incorporate specific techniques that take advantage of the water’s properties. These may include utilizing the water’s resistance, performing exercises in deep water, or using equipment to enhance the workout experience.
  • Fun and social atmosphere – Water aerobics classes are often fun and social. They provide an opportunity to connect with other participants, enjoy the music, and have a good time while working out in a supportive and motivating environment.

Remember, each instructor and class may have unique styles and structures, so the specific format and exercises may vary. It’s always a good idea to arrive a few minutes early, introduce yourself to the instructor, and let them know if you have any specific concerns or limitations. Stay hydrated, follow the instructor’s guidance, and listen to your body throughout the class.

Water Aerobics Exercises

Water aerobics offers a wide range of exercises that can be adapted to different fitness levels and preferences. Here are some common water aerobics exercises you might encounter in a class:

  • Jogging or walking in place – Stand in chest-deep water and jog or walk in place. Lift your knees high and pump your arms for an added cardiovascular challenge.
  • Jumping jacks – Start with your feet together and arms by your sides. Jump to spread your legs apart while raising your arms above your head. Jump back to the starting position and repeat.
  • Knee lifts – Stand tall in the water and lift one knee toward your chest while balancing on the opposite leg. Alternate between legs to engage the lower body and improve balance.
  • Leg kicks – Holding onto the pool wall or using a kickboard for support, kick your legs forward and backward in a controlled manner. This exercise targets the muscles of the legs, including the quadriceps and hamstrings.
  • Arm circles – Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and extend your arms out to the sides at shoulder height. Move your arms in small circles, gradually increasing the size of the circles. Reverse the direction after a set period.
  • Water bicycle – Sit on a pool noodle or in a floating chair and pedal your legs as if riding a bicycle. This exercise engages the leg muscles and provides a cardiovascular workout.
  • Cross-country skiing – Stand with your feet hip-width apart and arms slightly bent. Jump laterally, crossing one leg over the other while swinging your arms. Repeat the motion in the opposite direction.
  • Flutter kicks – Hold onto the pool wall or use a kickboard for support. Extend your legs and kick them up and down alternately in a fluttering motion. This exercise targets the core and leg muscles.
  • Water push-ups – Stand facing the pool wall with your arms extended in front of you. Lean forward, place your hands on the wall at shoulder height, and perform push-ups by bending and extending your arms.
  • Poolside dips – Sit on the edge of the pool with your palms gripping the pool deck behind you. Lower your body by bending your elbows and then push back up to the starting position. This exercise works the triceps and shoulders.
  • Core twists – Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and extend your arms in front of you. Rotate your torso from side to side, engaging your core muscles. To increase the challenge, hold a water dumbbell or ball in your hands.
  • Water jogging or running – In deep water, wear a flotation belt or use an aqua jogging belt to stay afloat. Perform jogging or running motions while engaging your core and leg muscles.

These are just a few examples of water aerobics exercises. Remember to consult a qualified instructor to ensure proper form and technique and receive personalized guidance based on your fitness level and goals.


From cardio exercises that get your heart pumping and improve cardiovascular fitness to strength and resistance exercises that engage and sculpt your muscles, water aerobics offers a dynamic and holistic workout. It’s not hard or overwhelming – whether you have been working out or not, you can easily start a water aerobics routine anytime in a swimming pool or any shallow body of water. Try it for yourself, and it will probably be the reason you’ll be hooked on fitness!