Water Workouts

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Water Workouts

Swimming is a great workout that builds strength and endurance while putting relatively little stress on the joints. If you never learned to swim, you might consider taking lessons, but there are other great exercises you can do in the water that offer many of the same benefits as swimming.

Water workouts make use of the water’s resistance to turn ordinary movements into strength and endurance exercises. While some equipment, such as kickboards and foam dumbbells, can enhance your workout, there are plenty of exercises you can do without them.

Ways to get a full-body workout


For the legs, the simplest exercise is walking waist-deep in water for five or 10 minutes. It may sound easy until you actually try it! Stand tall, engage your core muscles, and walk, moving your arms as you go. You’ll be surprised how quickly you get winded and how tired your legs get.

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You can also hold onto a kickboard or the edge of a pool and practice kicks that you would normally use for swimming. You can flutter kick, rapidly alternating your legs up and down. You can scissor kick, simultaneously moving your legs in opposite directions to an open position and then back closed. To do breaststroke kicks (or “frog kicks”), start with your legs extended, then draw your knees apart and toward your stomach, bringing your feet up near your butt, and then straighten and close your legs quickly behind you, bringing them back to the starting position. (Search YouTube for visual demonstrations of how to execute these different types of kicks.) Keep the kicks going for one to three minutes.

To perform leg lifts, start by standing waist-deep in water. Engaging your core muscles, lift your right leg, bending the knee until it is level with the water. After holding this position for a few seconds, straighten your leg and then lower it. Then do the same thing with your left leg, and continue alternating your legs. Work up gradually until you can continue doing this for five to 10 minutes.


Here are two arm exercises you can try. For the first one, begin standing shoulder-deep in water, keeping your arms relatively straight, your elbows close to your body, and palms facing forward. Raise your forearms out with your palms facing upward, bending at the elbow as if performing dumbbell curls. Then turn your palms downward and lower your forearms to the starting position. Do this for 10 to 15 repetitions for one or more sets. If this is too easy, try it while holding foam dumbbells.

The second arm exercise involves moving your arms laterally (to the side). Standing shoulder-deep in water, start with your arms straight at your sides. With your palms facing upward, raise your arms to your side until they’re level with your shoulders, and then lower them back to your sides with your palms facing downward. You can do this for one or more sets of 10 to 15 repetitions. These exercises, too, can be done with foam dumbbells.

As with any workout, it’s a good idea to warm up a few minutes before your workout and cool down for a few minutes afterward by walking around slowly in the water. Staying hydrated is also important when doing any exercise, so keep a water bottle handy. (“Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink!”)

Float on

Remember to check in with your health care team before getting started and to ease into the routine slowly. And above all, have fun diving into your new workout!

Want to learn more about exercising with diabetes? Read “Exercise for Beginners,” “Add Movement to Your Life,” “Picking the Right Activity to Meet Your Fitness Goals” and “Seven Ways to Have Fun Exercising.”

Robert S. Dinsmoor

Robert S. Dinsmoor

Robert S. Dinsmoor on social media

A contributing editor at Diabetes Self-Management, Dinsmoor is an award-winning medical journalist who has written hundreds of articles on health and medicine, including dozens related to diabetes.

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