Make Waves for Your Health’s Sake

Swimming sign

As adults, we need two and a half hours (150 minutes) of aerobic physical activity per week. Swimming is the fourth most popular sports activity in the United States. While you’re trying to cool off this summer, try to incorporate some water exercises.

When you hop in the water—whether a lake, river, or pool—try one of these “cool” exercises:

  • Walk forward, backward, and sideways in the water. Start slowly for 1–2 minutes in each direction and work up to 3–5 minutes. A water belt may be helpful to maintain buoyancy.
  • Water squats are a great strength exercise. Be sure your feet are on the bottom of the pool, lake, or river and you can wiggle your toes. Do two sets of 10 repetitions.
  • Grab a water noodle and use it as an oar. Begin to row as if you were in a boat, using the noodle as your oar in the water. Do two sets of 10 repetitions.

Centers for Disease Control
Unity Point


Swimming is the fourth most popular sports activity in the United States and a good way to get regular aerobic physical activity. Just two and a half hours per week of aerobic physical activity, such as swimming, can decrease the risk of chronic illnesses like heart disease and diabetes. For people with arthritis, swimming and other water-based exercises can improve the use of affected joints and decrease pain from osteoarthritis.


Cool Off While Working Out!

fitness active pool water workoutStay cool in the summer, yet still break a sweat! There’s more to do in a pool than swim laps. You burn as many calories walking or jogging in the water as you do on land if you move your arms and legs at the same pace. You also can burn calories in shoulder deep water while using a kickboard or while performing push/pull movements with a pool noodle. The water resistance exercises your muscles but reduces stress on your joints.

Find more exercises you can perform in the water. Watch this video for other pool workout ideas

Water Aerobics

Exercises that increase your heart rate and oxygen intake are called aerobics. These include activities such as dancing, swimming, and running. Aerobics can increase your physical condition and help you lose weight. A common barrier for many people is physical limitation caused by disabilities or age.

Water aerobics is a great option for those with limited mobility because the buoyancy of water puts less strain on muscles and joints. Many people refer to water exercising as a “non-weight bearing exercise” because the water supports most of your weight — instead of your feet, hips, and legs. When you want to change the exertion that you produce when exercising, all you change is the speed at which you exercise.

Water exercises are recommended for people who have limited mobility due to being overweight or having medical problems or injuries. When considering a water exercise program, consult your doctor to be sure you can safely start a routine. Also, exercise with a partner for safety reasons. Even though you’re in the water, you still need to drink enough water to avoid dehydration.

Water exercise is beneficial and easier than regular exercising. Give it a try. Classes are offered at many public pools and YMCAs in Iowa, or you can design your own program. It takes no special equipment, not even shoes!

Just ‘Tri’ It

Training for a triathlon is one way to add variety to your workout routine. A triathlon consists of swimming, biking, and running. You don’t have to be a star athlete; triathlons come in all shapes and sizes, from the sprint-distance triathlon to the Ironman distance. If you’re motivated and do the training, you can cross the finish line.

There are many small, local sprint-distance triathlons that are great for your first experience. Contact a local sporting goods store or running club to see if they have a list of races in your area. If you don’t want to complete the entire race, organize a relay.

For more information about triathlons, visit For more information about sports nutrition, visit ISU Extension’s Eat to Compete Sports Nutrition website.

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