Aqua Therapy Exercises You Can Do in Your Pool

Have you ever done things in the water you could never do on land, like somersaults and handstands? You can perform these amazing feats easily in the pool because the water’s buoyancy makes you feel weightless — the ideal scenario for rehabbing your painful joints, regaining your balance, and addressing all kinds of symptoms from diseases and injuries.

As big believers in the power of water exercise, our team at Coastal Ortho offers professional aqua therapy at our four El Segundo and Torrance, California locations. Our board-certified physicians, orthopedic surgeons, and physical therapists team up to develop an aqua therapy program to strengthen your musculoskeletal system, increase your range of motion and flexibility, and even stave off injury- and disease-related depression. 

One of the great things about aqua therapy is that you can do it in your own pool. However, we strongly recommend checking in with us first, because engaging in the wrong activities can do more harm than good. Our experts prescribe a detailed plan and list of safe exercises that address your unique symptoms. 

Before you dive in, grab some pool shoes, a pool noodle, and a kickboard. Here are some examples of aqua therapy exercises many of our patients do regularly in their own pools.

Water walking

To try out water walking or jogging, get into chest- or waist-high water and walk forward for 10-20 steps before walking backward for the same distance. Increase your pace when you’re ready to boost the difficulty level. 

To make it even more challenging, swap your walking pace for a gentle jog in place for 30 seconds before returning to walking in place again for 30 seconds. 

You could also use a vertical kickboard to promote resistance while you walk. Try walking sideways by crossing your right foot in front of your left and left foot back to start. Continue this movement for 20 steps in each direction.

Aqua planks

Hold a noodle using both hands (shoulder-width apart) and keep your toes on the pool floor. While straightening your elbows, lean forward to submerge the noodle in front of you until you reach a plank position. 

Your body should form a straight line diagonally with the pool floor. Maintain this position as long as you are comfortable with it — ideally for 15 to 60 seconds — then take a rest. Do this exercise three to five times in a row for optimal results.

The flamingo

This one is great for balance. Stand on one leg, and lift your other knee to hip level. Create a U-shape using a pool noodle and center your foot in the U while holding it in place with your raised leg. 

Hold this position for a maximum of 30 seconds, then switch legs. Do one to two sets of five repetitions for each leg. If you struggle with balance, you can modify the exercise by holding onto the side of the pool or omitting the noodle.

Aqua bike

Biking on land can be challenging, but it’s a breeze in the water. This one works best in deeper water, so to add extra buoyancy, you can wrap one or two noodles around your back and lay your arms across them for added support. Mimic the motion of riding a bicycle with your legs while holding this position for three to five minutes.

Hip helpers

Position yourself with the pool wall on one side of your body. Begin by straightening one leg forward and mimicking a kicking motion before returning to the starting position; then, move the same leg to the side and repeat the motion before moving the leg backward. 

Next, draw circles with your leg as if tracing the shape on the pool floor. Repeat this sequence in three sets of 10 before switching to the alternate leg.

Knee lifts

Start with your back leaned against the pool wall and both feet firmly gripping the floor. Lift one knee as if you’re marching in place. As your knee reaches hip level, extend it until your entire leg is parallel to the pool floor. 

Repeat this 10 times, then switch to the other leg. Repeat for three sets of 10 reps on each leg. To increase the difficulty, do this exercise without the support of the pool wall.

Pool pushups

Stand in the water facing the wall within arm’s length of the pool edge. Stretch your arms out to the pool edge, keeping your hands shoulder-width apart on the edge. With your feet on the pool floor and your body straight, lower your chest to the pool edge. Then use your hands to raise your body back to the initial position. Repeat for three sets of 10 repetitions.

Which aqua exercises are right for you?

The right exercises build strength, stamina, and flexibility; the wrong ones increase pain and damage. Remember to listen to your body and never push through the pain. We’re here to get you started on an aqua therapy plan, so contact us by phone or online when you’re ready to jump in.