Login to myMedcanLocationsCareersEmployee Programs
Book an appointment
Health Tips & Advice

Benefits of Water-based Exercise

By Dr. Andrew Miners, Medcan Clinical and Product Director—Sports Medicine, Therapy, Rehabilitation and Fitness

This low-impact, whole body conditioning exercise could be an excellent complement to your current workout routine.

It’s that time of year again: outdoor pools are open and the lake is warming up.

Many love a casual dip on a hot summer day, but have you considered using a pool or lake to get a total body workout? Exercising in water presents challenges such as muscle fatigue and taxes your arms, legs, and cardiovascular system without putting stress on your joints the way some other exercises can. And you don’t need to know how to swim to reap the rewards. Here are some of the best reasons to add aquatic exercise to your workout regime.

Exercise in Water Offers a Whole-Body Workout

Unlike leg day at the gym, aquatic exercise offers a full-body workout every single time. When you’re immersed in water, your upper and lower extremities are put to work and your core is engaged. All this movement is tremendous for developing your cardiovascular endurance and mobility. A 2018 study illustrated the significant positive changes to participants’ explosive strength ability (as used in HIIT exercises), as well as a decrease in fat mass after 12 weeks of a water aerobics program.

Variety is Good for Muscles

Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. If you’re always doing the same exercises, like running, cycling or weight workouts, your body may stop responding to that specific exercise and cease to grow and adapt. You’ll also be more susceptible to repetitive strain injuries. Switching up your workouts challenges your muscles, uses different joint angles, prevents repetitive strain injuries and can help keep you motivated to exercise.
Try this: Instead of running four days a week, run three days a week and add in one pool workout a week.

A Pool Day Offers Optimal Active Recovery

Rest days allow the body’s muscles to recover from damage incurred during workouts and allows them to grow. Spending time in a pool (or lake) is a great way to have a recovery day that’s more beneficial than doing absolutely nothing. When I played university football, my team played games on Saturdays. Then, on Sundays, despite feeling like we’d been hit by a truck, we’d meet at the campus pool and do simple bodyweight movements in the water. It was a great way to get our bodies moving again, and it helped alleviate sore muscles.
Try this: Swap your rest day for an hour in a pool.

Moving in Water Offers One of the Best Low-Impact Workouts

Exercising in water has all the benefits of regular exercise, but the buoyancy of the water acts as a cushion for your body’s weight-bearing joints, so there’s less stress on muscles, tendons and ligaments. A 2022 study showed regular aquatic exercise resulted in an alleviation of pain and lessening of dysfunction in arthritic patients. Water-based exercise also increases joint strength and range of movement, leading to improved joint function.
Try this: Swap a typical run for aqua jogging. Use a buoyancy belt to keep you upright. You’ll get the benefits of running without the wear and tear on your joints from running on pavement.

Water Aids in Injury Rehabilitation

In direct relation to the low-impact benefits, water-based training “has the potential to help clients achieve greater therapeutic benefits and clinical outcomes” as indicated in this 2020 study on the combination of water- and land-based therapies. If you have an injury from repetitive load or stress, water exercise may be a good addition to your rehabilitation plan. The lack of impact on the injured muscle, joint or bone allows you to rebuild endurance safely. Just be sure to wait until your doctor clears you to go into the water to ensure you don’t incur a post-op infection.

So What are the Downsides to Working Out in Water?

By its very nature of offering buoyancy, water won’t give you the load bearing required to slow bone density loss. I don’t recommend adding weights to your pool workout. Instead, save strength training for the gym—ideally with a trainer—and work your low-impact cardiovascular endurance in the pool.

One of the best ways to approach fitness is with variety, so if you have an opportunity to add a workout in the pool to your weekly routine, give it a try and let us know what you thought. We’re happy to provide a custom exercise plan for you to follow—whatever your skill level or fitness goals.

Looking for support with your exercise goals? Contact us at fitness@medcan.com.

Share this


All Insights


Curious about our services, or ready to start experiencing the benefits of being a Medcan client?