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Aerobic Water Exercise and Aquatic Therapy

How to use Water Aerobics and Aquatic Exercises for injury rehabilitation and maintaining fitness.

by Brad Walker | First Published June 16, 2001 | Updated September 8, 2017

Part 2:
In the last issue we discussed some of the more theoretical aspects to aerobic water exercise or aquatic therapy. If you happened to miss last months issue or would just like to refresh your memory, Click here to have a look at Part 1 of this article.

For now, let’s move on to some of the more practical ways to use aquatic therapy and deep water exercises.

What Equipment Do You Need?

Besides from 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 floaty will do the trick as long as it keeps your head above water. Just make sure it doesn’t interfere with the movement of your arms and legs too much.

To the right are a number of superb examples of professional floatation devices designed specifically for deep water exercise. The first is a floatation belt which fits around the waist and connects at the front. This will provide ample buoyancy to keep just about anyone afloat. The second picture shows one of the flotation vests which is very similar to a life jacket, except that it provides a greater amount of freedom to move around.

However, if you don’t have access to one of these professional devices, don’t panic. For years I simply stuck an old swim floaty down the front of my bathers, it wasn’t 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.

Aqua belt
Wet vest

Your Position In The Water

Underwater shot of deep water runningNow lets 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 relatively 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. Refer to the picture at the left for a visual example.

In this position you should be free to move your arms and legs in all directions. From this position there are a number of 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 extending your legs, thinking smooth and long. Don’t forget your arms, move them back and forth, keeping your shoulders relaxed.

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

Sample Routines

A word of caution. Before going straight into a serious work out, 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’ll start to get the hang of it. Then, once you’ve mastered this new form of exercise,  you can move onto a more structured work out.

Warm Up: 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: Alternate between running and cross country skiing for 3 minutes at a moderate o hard pace, then 1 minute at an easy pace. Repeat this 5 to 10 times, depending on your fitness and goals.

Or: 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.

Or: Simply run or ski at a moderate intensity for 30 to 40 minutes. Remember to keep your heart rate at a steady, consistent level, don’t go too hard too soon.

Cool Down: Run easy for 10 minutes gradually decreasing the intensity. Finish with a good stretch and you’ll feel great.

Next time you’re 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’ll be surprised at the great workout you can get! Click here for more sample routines and aerobic water exercises.

Brad Walker - AKA The Stretch CoachAbout the Author: Brad is often referred to as the "Stretch Coach" and has even been called the Stretching Guru. Magazines such as Runners World, Bicycling, Triathlete, Swimming & Fitness, and Triathlon Sports have all featured his work. Amazon has listed his books on five Best-Seller lists. Google cites over 100,000 references to him and his work on the internet. And satisfied customers from 122 countries have sent 100's of testimonials. If you want to know about stretching, flexibility or sports injury management, Brad Walker is the go-to-guy.