Physical Therapy Assistant Guide

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10 Exercises To Do In the Pool (Instructions + Videos)


Top Ten Exercises To Do In The Pool

When my mom, a very active avid tennis player and health nut started experiencing intense arthritis and joint pain, she turned to the pool for all of her exercise needs. After all, water doesn’t just feel nice on your skin, it feels nice on your entire body: muscles, bones, tendons, and joints.

Pool exercises, also known as aquatic exercises, offer up many benefits such as being the perfect place to exercise all year long, no matter what the season or weather (indoor pools of course!). Thanks to the buoyancy of the water, you are able to move more freely in it, which helps give you greater range of motion and improve your flexibility. Your muscles are strengthened because of how much resistance the water provides. On top of all this, pool exercises also improve your cardiovascular fitness, balance, and agility. If you suffer from fibromyalgia, arthritis, back pain, neurological or balance conditions, or have joint replacements, then the pool is the perfect place to go to get relief and improve your conditions. Compared to exercising on land, the water is the ideal location.

Preparing For Physical Therapy Exercises In The Pool

Talk to your doctor or physical therapist before starting any new exercise regimen. They will let you know if there are any problems with you exercising in the pool. Otherwise, follow these tips to get started:

  • Purchase water shoes that will help you be more stabilized on wet floors.
  • Need help staying afloat in deep water? Noodles and flotation devices are your friends!
  • While slower movements in the are easier, they provide less resistance than larger ones.
  • For optimum resistance, make sure the water is at least waist high.
  • In pain? Don’t exercise! Sometimes your body needs a break.
  • You may not sweat in the pool, but you should still drink plenty of clean water. (Not pool water.)
  • To increase resistance, try using webbed water gloves, inflated balls, kick-boards, or Styrofoam weights.

The Ten Therapy Exercises For The Pool You Need

1. Jogging Or Walking In Water

Start off in water that is at least waist high and practice your forward and backward walking. In smaller pools, it’s a good idea to try 10 – 20 steps forward and then do the same backward. Make it more difficult by increasing your speed. If you really don’t have room, try jogging in place at a high intensity. Try alternating your jogging with walking in place. Try 30/50 second intervals. Do this for a total of five minutes.

How to Aqua Jog – Jogging in Water

2. Side And Forward Lunges

You may want to stand next to a pool wall for support for this one. Start with an oversized lunge going forward. The knee should not go past the toes. Now go back to where you started and repeat with the opposite leg. A lunge is the same thing, only stepping to the side instead of forward. Your toes should always be facing forward. Repeat on the other side. For a good workout, do 3 sets of lunges at 10 steps a piece. Mix things up by doing both forward and sideways lunges.

3. Balance On One Leg

Keep one leg in place while slowly raising the other knee to hip level. If you need help holding this pose, place a pool noodle around your extended foot so the foot is in the center of a U. Hold for thirty seconds and then switch. Five raises for a total of 1 – 2 sets each should do the trick.

4. Sidestepping

Facing the pool wall (and making sure your toes stay facing the wall,) take sideways steps, going up to twenty in one direction before returning. Do this twice in each direction.

5. Hip Kickers

Stand so the pool wall is at one of your sides to give you support. Do a slow kick so your leg is forward with the knee straight. Bring it back down and then move it out to the side. Now move the leg behind you. Do this three times on each leg.

6. Pool Planks

Make sure the noodle is in front of you move moving into a plank position. The noodle will be submerged beneath you, while your elbows point toward the pool floor. Keep your feet on the floor. Hold this for as long as you can, ideally up to a full minute. This will increase your core strength.

7. Deep Water Bicycle

You can purchase an under water fixed bicycle exercise machine to perform underwater bicycling exercises.

Or if you don’t have the bicycle, then go to the deep end of the pool and loop a foam noodle behind you so your arms rest on it and the noodle supports you. Do some bicycling motions with your legs for about 3 – 5 minutes.

8. Arm Raises

Hold your arms out to your side. Elbows should go 90 degrees before being raised and lowered toward the water surface. Keep the elbows bent. Do this for three sets of 10, and add light weight, webbed gloves, or paddles if you need a bigger challenge.

9. Push Ups

Place your arms about shoulder width apart while standing at the pool’s edge. Put your arms on the edge and focus your weight there as you raise your body about halfway out of the water. Keep your elbows slightly bent. Hold for a few seconds and then go back down. Too hard? Put your hands on the pool wall and lean in and out until you build up strength.

10. Standing Knee Lift

Next to the pool wall, stand with your feet on the bottom. Act like you’re marching by lifting one knee up. Straighten the knee when it is even with your hip. Do this 10 times and then do it with the other leg. Do three sets of ten each. Need a bigger challenge? Don’t stand next

Best Physical Therapy Pool Exercises

There you have it, the top 10 pool exercises for physical therapy. Next time you are in the pool, try these out to improve your movement and flexibility while reducing pain. Pool Therapy exercises are great due to the low impact and smoothness of the motions in the water. Your body will really appreciate physical therapy exercises performed in the pool as the water reduces a lot of stress on your skeletal, muscular, and nervous systems.

Bonus: Video 9 Aquatic Exercises to Get Fit

Do you practice physical therapy exercises in the pool? Tell us about your pool exercises in the comments below! 🙂


  1. Great article. Considering we get so wrapped up in owning equipment, when we had a pool all along! 🙂

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