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Aerobic Water Exercise & Aquatic Therapy - Part 2

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

In part 1 of this article, we discussed some of the more theoretical aspects of aerobic water exercise or aquatic therapy. For now, let us move on to some of the more practical ways to use aquatic therapy and deep-water exercises. Firstly, what are you going to need? Besides a pair of bathers and an open expanse of water, the only other thing you need is a float of some sort. There are specially designed float belts and vests that you can buy, but any old life jacket, ski belt, or float will do the trick as long as it keeps your head above water. Make sure it does not interfere with the movement of your arms and legs too much.

Floatation devices

Aqua JoggerTo the right are examples of professional floatation devices designed specifically for deep water exercise.

The first is a floatation belt (Aqua Jogger) which fits around the waist and connects at the front. This will provide ample buoyancy to keep anyone afloat. Aqua Jogger

The second picture shows one of the flotation vests, which are very similar to a life jacket, except that it provides a greater amount of freedom to move around.

However, if you do not have access to one of these professional devices, do not panic. For years I stuck an old swim float down the front of my bathers, it was not pretty, but it did the trick.

You can do the same, an old piece of foam or float tied around your waist will keep your head above the water.

Now let us have a look at your body position in the water and a few common mistakes people tend to make. You want to position yourself in a similar posture to that of running on land. Keep your head up and your shoulders back. Your torso should be straight with a slight (very slight) forward lean. Do not bend forward at the waist and alternately do not lean back into a sitting position.

Aqua JoggerThe picture to the right provides a visual of the correct technique. In this position, you should be free to move your arms and legs in all directions. From this position, there are several actions you can take. The standard is the running motion. This should be performed as you would run on land. Make sure you have long strides, fully extend your legs, thinking smooth and long. Do not forget your arms, move them back and forth, keeping your shoulders relaxed.

Try cross-country skiing, keep your arms and legs straight, moving them back and forth like a cross-country skier, or what about exaggerating your stride, like a runner over hurdles. The choices are endless, make up some of your own.

A word of caution

Before going straight into a serious workout, spend a couple of sessions just concentrating on your technique and getting comfortable in the water. I can guarantee you that the first time you try this sort of exercise, it will feel very strange and uncomfortable. After a few easy sessions, you will start to get the hang of it. Then, once you have mastered this new form of exercise, you can move on to a more structured workout. Try one of the examples below.

Training session


Run or stride easy for 10 to 15 minutes, gradually increasing the speed and intensity. Do a few stretches to loosen up the muscles and finish the warm-up with a few short, fast sprints.

Main Set - 3 examples

  1. Alternate between running and cross-country skiing for 3 minutes at a moderate to hard pace, then 1 minute at an easy pace. Repeat these 5 to 10 times, depending on your fitness and goals.
  2. Run or ski
    • First 2 minutes easy
    • Next 2 minutes moderate
    • Next 2 minutes hard
    • Next 2 minutes moderate
    • Last 2 minutes easy
    • Repeat the above 2 to 4 times.
  3. Run or ski at a moderate intensity for 30 to 40 minutes. Remember to keep your heart rate at a steady, consistent level; do not go too hard too soon.

Cool Down

Run easy for 10 minutes, gradually decreasing the intensity. Finish with a good stretch, and you will feel great.


Next time you are laid up with a minor injury or just looking for something a little different to beat the boredom of your usual workout, remember to give deep water running a try. You will be surprised at the great workout you can get!

Article Reference

This article first appeared in:

  • WALKER, B. (2005) Aerobic Water Exercise & Aquatic Therapy - Part 2. Brian Mackenzie's Successful Coaching, (ISSN 1745-7513/ 28 / December 2005-January 2006), p. 9

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 2 [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.