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Aerobic Water Exercise & Aquatic Therapy - Part 1

Brad Walker explains why water aerobics, or aquatic exercises, are a superb form of exercise for injury rehabilitation and maintaining fitness.

So, what is meant when someone talks of aerobic water exercise or aquatic therapy? In its broadest sense, aquatic therapy can be any activity that is performed in water. However, I like to break these activities into two major areas that relate specifically to sport, exercise, fitness, and health. Firstly, aquatic therapy is any exercise done in water to complement and enhance your regular training and exercise. Secondly, aquatic therapy is any activity performed in water to assist in rehabilitation and recovery from hard training or serious injury.

Less impact

One of the main features of aquatic therapy is that it allows you to exercise without the jarring and jolting experienced when training on land. It is estimated that bodyweight is compounded up to five times during the heel strike when running or jogging. This does not occur during deep water or aquatic exercise. The buoyant properties of water mean that you can perform an exercise without any significant impact at all.

This feature alone makes aquatic therapy stand out from several other recovery and rehabilitation exercises. When injured, it is challenging to find exercises and activities that allow you to maintain your current level of fitness and do not jeopardise or risk further injury. However, the use of aquatic therapy or deep-water exercises puts the body in a near zero-gravity environment. Meaning there is no impact or jarring on any of the body's joints, muscles, ligaments, tendons, or bones.

This is especially important when you have spent time organising your goals and putting them into a plan of action. The last thing you want to do is have to take time off because of an injury. Even during your regular exercise routine, there is always the possibility that small, minute injuries occurred during the session. It is these small, minute injuries that, if left unattended, can build up over time and lead to significant, debilitating injuries which can cost you weeks, if not months, in recovery time. This is where aquatic therapy can assist by helping recovery without any loss to your training schedule.


Another vital feature of aquatic therapy is that water increases the resistance experienced while training. The great thing about this increased resistance is that it is variable. Meaning, that the faster and harder you work against the water, the greater the resistance you encounter and the harder the workout. So, if you are injured or just looking for an easy workout, you can take it slow and gently move your limbs against the water. However, if you want a challenging work out, go as hard, and as fast as you can, the water will always return an equal resistance.

From the two features mentioned previously, you can see that aquatic therapy is a very safe and beneficial form of exercise. As well as several cardiovascular and respiratory benefits, the aquatic treatment also helps to:

  • increase and maintain muscular flexibility
  • improve mobility and range of motion
  • increase muscular strength
  • improve coordination, balance, and postural alignment

Other benefits include:

  • a high-calorie consumption
  • a massaging effect on your muscles
  • the ability to train during very hot weather, (using an outdoor pool or freshwater lake
  • the ability to train during very cold weather, (using an indoor heated pool)
  • a great supplement or alternative to regular training
  • is usually pleasurable and very relaxing
  • because your body is supported by water your heart rate is slightly lower, meaning aquatic therapy is safe for obese individuals, pregnant ladies, and those suffering from hypertension and heart disease

That takes care of most of the theoretical aspects of deep water running. In part 2 of this article, I will address the practical side of water aerobics.

Article Reference

This article first appeared in:

  • WALKER, B. (2005) Aerobic Water Exercise & Aquatic Therapy - Part 1. Brian Mackenzie's Successful Coaching, (ISSN 1745-7513/ 27 / November), p. 4

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • WALKER, B. (2005) Aerobic Water Exercise & Aquatic Therapy - Part 1 [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

About the Author

Brad Walker is a prominent Australian sports trainer with more than 15 years of experience in the health and fitness industry. Brad is a Health Science graduate of the University of New England and has postgraduate accreditations in athletics, swimming, and triathlon coaching. He also works with elite level and world champion athletes and lectures for Sports Medicine Australia on injury prevention.