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Keep Fit in Your Pool


Do you find summer too hot for exercise?

Are your injuries stopping you from exercising?

A backyard pool offers the perfect opportunity to combine exercising with some fun!

You can enjoy swimming, snorkeling, aqua-aerobics, ball games, deep water running or simply splashing about in water whilst keeping fit at the same time.

Aqua-exercises have unique characteristics. However you still need to warm up before starting any strenuous exercise that will increase the heart rate. The session itself should be challenging, without causing injury or overexertion and it is advisable that you cool down slowly and finish with some stretches. As with any exercise program, don’t overdo it – start easy and progressively increase your efforts as your body adapts.

The body is less likely to overheat or perspire excessively (causing rapid water loss) because it is surrounded by a continual source of cooling – water! This makes exercising in water ideal for those who may be recovering from an injury, for pregnant women, or elderly people who may have brittle bones.

Exercising in water is also less likely to cause damage to muscles or joints through rapid or sharp movements, or from pounding on hard surfaces. However, working out in water can also be deceiving! It may feel as if very little work is being done while you are exercising in the pool, only for you to come out of the water and find yourself exhausted.

Respiratory Fitness

The lungs can benefit greatly from aqua-exercise. Any exercise in water that increases the heart rate and the depth of breathing, will in turn gradually increase lung capacity. Swimming is particularly good for increasing lung capacity, because not only is the body stimulated to breathe more by an increased heart rate, but the swimmer tends to take deeper breaths - particularly with underwater or lap swimming.

It is generally recommended that 20 - 30 minutes of aerobic work, 3 to 4 days a week is the minimum necessary for good health. Any increase in activity should result in an increase in fitness. However, people are all very different and their response to exercise will vary.

Pool Temperature

The ideal water temperature for exercise is between 27 to 29oC. If the temperature is higher - then exercise slower! Watch out for signs of tiredness, and allow periods to "dip in" and refresh before continuing the work out. You may also require longer recovery times.

If the water is too cool (< 25oC) you need to be particularly active to avoid being chilled. Take care with more strenuous activity though, as there is an increased risk of injury or pain particularly with less fit people, arthritis sufferers, and the elderly.

Hint: Wear a wet suit vest to keep warm or use windbreaks (e.g. plants and fences)

Pool Depth

The depth of a pool will influence the type of aquatic activity that can be undertaken.

Deep water running requires a depth of at least 2 metres, while most other exercises require around 1.2 metres. For children a depth between waist and chest height is ideal to allow them to exercise safely.

Equipment for Aqua Fitness Activities

There is a wide range of equipment that can be used in the water for safety, to add interest to your exercise, to increase the effort required to do some exercises and to assist you in maintaining proper form to achieve the full benefit from exercise.

Eg. Kick boards

Float belts & vests (to increase buoyancy)

Goggles & face masks (to protect the eyes & allow visibility beneath the water)

Ear plugs (to keep water out of the ears)



Hand paddles

Webbed gloves and flotation barbells (to increase the effort)

Stretch cords (for muscle strengthening)

Weight belts (for those who may have problems with too much buoyancy)

Sun Protection

Sun protection is essential. T-shirts made of material with a high SPF, hats/caps, sunglasses (for activities where you don’t submerge your head), and water resistant sunscreen with a high SPF should all be used.

Exercises for Fitness in the Pool

Many, of the same exercises that are undertaken on land, can also be undertaken in water. In addition, exercises that could not be done on land can be readily done in water due to the effects of buoyancy. Conditions in water are obviously different, so the equipment used and the way in which the exercises are undertaken are also different.


There are many different exercises that might be undertaken in a pool to help increase fitness.

Variations of simple movements are beneficial in the water environment and the resistance from the water makes gentle movements more effective as a form of exercise.

Travelling around the pool while undertaking the exercises changes both the direction and provides variety. It also increases the intensity for you because it requires further distance to travel for each movement.

For example, jogging can take on a whole new dimension with variations such as:

* high or low knee jogging

* fast or slow jogging

* wide leg stance with jogging

* hands touch heels/opposite heels/ankle fronts/opposite ankles

* hands touch opposite ankle in front and then opposite heel behind

* jog and travel - side to side, back and forth, in circles, etc.

Single leg lifts can be modified such as:

* leg lift in front /to side /behind buttocks

* lift with lunge, or lunge to the side/back/front

* leg lift alternating from side to side

* lift and travelling side to side/circles/forward/back/etc

* calf (toe) raises or combined with a hop or feet together

* hopping by itself or with travel patterns

* hopping with the touching of ankles in between each hop

* straight leg lifts to front and back/side/alternating direction

* alternating the above lifts in various combinations (four forward, four sideward,

four backward and finish with four sideward again).

Jumps can also be modified. Examples:

* high and low jumps

* jumping with feet coming behind the body towards the backside with hands

touching the feet

* jumping knees in front bringing them to the chest

* jump stars/scissors

* frog jumps - knees up, in front and apart

* travel jumps with/without combinations as listed above.

Pool Side (Wall) Work

Wall work involves you holding onto the pool edge and performing a range of exercises such as abdominal curls (sometimes called tummy tucks), push ups, jumps, etc. Many variations may be developed with this form of exercise.

Abdominal Curls can be performed with the arms stretched out holding on to the wall with the head facing the roof. The knees come up to form a tuck position allowing the abdominal muscles to contract. This can also be done with one leg at a time while the other remains stretched out in front.

Push ups are performed holding the pool edge with arms stretched out and eyes looking at the pool edge. The arms bend and the chest comes down towards the pool edge. The abdominal muscles and back must be kept firm and push ups performed at various rhythms (two counts, three counts, pulses etc)

Deep Water Exercises

Deep Water Running mimics the jogging/running style, but with the added benefits of low impact and low strain. A belt is put on to retain buoyancy while ensuring the posture is upright and slightly leaning forward. The objective is to achieve a running action with the legs while keeping the ankles relaxed and the knees low and not touching the base of the pool. The arms should be bent with fists closed and close to the body - the same motion as if running on land. Overstriding is considered beneficial in this exercise and it is important to use the correct technique.

There are other exercises (not running) which can be incorporated into a deep water exercise session, including Cross Country Skiing, Jogging & Raising Knees High or Low, or Diagonal Knee Raises (opposite knee to shoulder).


Any backyard pool can be used in some way for exercising; but if you are building a new pool, there are lots of things you can do to make it just a little better for aquafitness:

-If you make the pool a little deeper, it can be more suitable for deep water running.

-Build some tether rings into the wall (something you can hook a leash onto when you do deep water running or swimming, to stop you moving).

-Create a flat, shallower section that you can stand waist to chest high in, for doing water aerobics (You tend to be less stable on a sloping pool bottom)

-Provide some type of grip on the edge of the pool (ie. something you can hold onto when doing stretching or any other type of wall work).


Perhaps you have one or two friends who are concerned about their fitness, or weight. Why not get together in the pool for a work out once a week. You can lend each other a bit of moral support, not to mention it’s always more fun having someone to talk to while you exercise.


More information in:

Aquafitness by John Mason. Published by Kangaroo Press. This is a comprehensive guide, easy to read and equally useful for both professional fitness instructors, or for anyone simply wishing to use their backyard pool to get fit.

Available through most good bookshops, give them the above details and they will get a copy in for you.


If you really want to learn Aquafitness properly; enrol in this 70 hour distance education course and learn from the author of the above book and his expert staff.

More information from: Australian Correspondence Schools

See: http://www.acs.edu.au/

Article by John Mason and staff of ACS Distance Education.



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