Water-based exercises

Posted on 11 July, 2020 || Tags: | | | |
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Water-based exercises are a great way to help you get better from an injury or live with a long-term condition. They are also a great way to start to be more active.

Exercises you find difficult to do on land are easier in water due to buoyancy, which makes you float, and other water properties.

Water-based exercises are similar to hydrotherapy. Hydrotherapy is when a physiotherapist gives you exercises in specially designed pools of a certain depth and temperature. But you can do the exercises in the four sheets on this page yourself, in any pool.

The exercises can help with pain reduction, joint mobility, overall fitness, feeling happier, and making it easier to do everyday activities.

If you have an unstable health condition, talk to your doctor before starting the exercises.

Where to do water-based exercises

You can do the exercises in your own pool, or at a public pool.

Don’t go to a public pool if:

  • you have had a gastro (tummy) bug within the past 10 days.
  • you have any open wounds.

When you arrive at a public pool, tell the life guard you’re there to do water-based exercises. They will show you where it’s safest to do them.


It costs the same to do these exercises at a public pool as normal use of the pool.


These water-based exercises are recommended to help with a variety of conditions.

It shouldn’t hurt to do these exercises but it’s OK to feel the joints and muscles work.

See your doctor or physiotherapist if your pain or movement gets worse from doing these exercises. Tell the pool staff and see your doctor if you feel unwell while doing these exercises.

Elbow to knee

  • Stand with feet hip width apart.
  • Bend elbow and lift opposite leg with knee bent.
  • Bring elbow towards opposite knee.
  • Swap sides.

1. Bring hand to knee.
2. Lean against pool wall for balance.

HARDER: Move faster.

Heel jacks

  • Stand with feet hip width apart.
  • Step one heel forwards and tap on pool floor while bending knee of the leg you are standing on.
  • Swap legs.

EASIER: Hold on to rail.

HARDER: Lift hands up to water surface as you step, then push them back behind your hips as you tap your heel on floor.

Rocking horse

  • Stand in a stride.
  • Rock forwards and put weight on front leg, lifting back leg off the floor.
  • Rock backwards and put weight on back leg, lifting front leg off floor.

1. Hold onto rail
2. Keep the non-weight bearing leg in contact with the floor.

1. Jump between legs.
2. Lift arms out as you rock forwards and together as you rock backwards.
3. Move faster.

Cossack shuffle

  • Stand with arms crossed across chest.
  • Lift one leg straight forward off the pool floor.
  • Swap legs.

1. Hold on to rail.
2. Bend knee as you raise leg.

1. Jump between legs.
2. Move faster.

Jumping jacks

  • Stand with arms at side and elbows bent.
  • Jump legs apart and lift arms to side.
  • Jump legs back together and lower arms.

1. Step rather than jump legs apart.
2. Only move arms or legs

1. Straighten arms.
2. Move faster.

Cross-country ski

  • Stand in a stride with opposite arms forwards and backwards
  • Jump to swap the hand and foot that are forward.

EASIER: Step rather than jump when changing sides

1. Place paddles on hands.
2. Move faster.

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