Water Aerobics for Joint HealthWater Aerobics for Joint Health

Many of us develop painful joints as we get older, and that can cause a domino effect that leads to less exercise and poorer overall health. If you’ve had to hang up your running shoes, it may be time jump into aquatic fitness. Water fitness classes for older adults are increasingly popular with seniors and their doctors, because they offer a good cardio workout, strength training, and even flexibility and balance training without undue stress on ankles, knees and hips—and you don’t have to know how to swim.

Benefits of water workouts

The Centers for Disease Control credits water fitness with improving joint mobility and reducing joint pain in people with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. There’s also research showing that regular aquatic exercise can counteract some anxiety and depression symptoms and reduce the incidence of disability in older people. Other benefits noted by WebMD include improved reaction times, a higher overall metabolic rate, and lower blood cholesterol levels.

If you think you have to do land-based weight-bearing exercise to build and maintain bone density as you age, think again. The CDC cites research published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness which found that 3 hours per week of water exercise improved the bone mineral content of post-menopausal women over the course of 7 months.

Types of water workouts

Simply swimming laps is a great whole-body exercise that strengthens your heart and builds muscle mass. If you’re not a strong swimmer or prefer group exercise, you’re living in the right era. Creative fitness experts have developed a long list of water fitness classes. There’s traditional water aerobics, but also Aqua Zumba, which moves the popular dance workout into the pool. Aqua circuit training and flexibility classes build strength and range of motion, while aqua abs courses focus on your core muscles for better posture.

Want something a little more relaxing? Try aqua yoga or aquatic tai chi. Want to really go for it? Hydro running, high intensity aqua interval training, and in-pool sports drills take things up a notch. The newest wave in pool workouts is deep water fitness, which uses flotation belts to help participants get more resistance training with less joint strain.

Where to find the right water workout for you

If your neighborhood or senior living community has a pool and offers classes, you’re in luck. Other options can include seasonal or year-round programs at your city’s pools and aquatic centers, private health club classes for members, and classes at non-profit recreation centers such as your local YMCA or JCC. You can also check with local college and university fitness centers to see if they offer water fitness classes or lap-swim times to the public.

What to know before you go

It’s always a good idea to check with your doctor before you start a new fitness routine. And it’s wise to check on the training and safety credentials of your instructor before you come to class. Look for a teacher who has a certification from a group like the Aquatic Exercise Association, which has training modules specifically for Arthritis Foundation aquatic program teachers. Ideally, there should also be trained lifeguards on duty during the class for everyone’s safety.

Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelance writer whose childhood was made awesome by her grandmothers, great-grandmother, great-aunts and -uncles, and their friends.


  1. mB April 14, 2016 Reply

    Anyone know of videos or CDs for water aerobics?

  2. Marco November 8, 2017 Reply

    Hello water enthousiast,
    I am a physical therapist who is expanding his territory into the world of aquatic exercise, fitness, therapy and rehabilitation. I am researching my options for certifications through AEA and ATRI. I am also checking out the equipment that is used in water, looking to buy and try out. I am familiar with a few things already (Aqua Jogger, AquaStrength, AquaLogix, Aqua Gear, Aqua Fitness, Kiefer, Speedo), but I am always looking to expand my horizons. I noticed a “new” product on the market for water aerobics, exercise and rehab, called the Aqua-Ohm. It looks very different than anything else out there. Does anyone have any experience with this particular piece of equipment? I looks versatile and fun….. Any thoughts??
    Thanks!! Marco.

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