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20 Pool Exercises for Seniors (With Targeted Muscles)
Modern60

Fact Checked And Reviewed By Drew Sutton, Drew Sutton | MD

By Modern60, Editorial Team

Last Updated on April 8th, 2024

Exercise & Fitness

20 Pool Exercises for Seniors (With Targeted Muscles)

If you enjoy outdoor pool activities, you will love the revitalizing nature of water exercises. Aquatic workout routines bring many benefits, including good cardiovascular health, decreased risk of diabetes, fewer mood swings, better agility, and improved strength and endurance. Such benefits can prolong your life span and improve your quality of life.

Overview of Pool Exercises: Targeted Muscles and Safe Practice

ExerciseTarget Muscle GroupsBenefitsIntensity LevelEquipmentModificationsSafety Tips
Flutter KickLegs, CoreStrengthens legs, improves core stability, flexibilityBeginnerNoneHold onto the pool edge for balance, start shallowStrengthens core muscles and improves lower abdominal strength
Arm CirclesShouldersStrengthens core muscles improves lower abdominal strengthBeginnerNonePerform forward and backward circlesHold onto the pool edge for balance, and start shallow
PushupsChest, Shoulders, TricepsBuilds upper body strength, improves postureBeginner/IntermediatePool noodles (optional)Increases shoulder mobility, range of motion, and blood flowKeep back straight, engage core, avoid hyperextension
Leg RaiseCore, Lower AbsStrengthens calf muscles improves ankle stabilityBeginner/IntermediateNoneLie on your back with legs straight; raise your legs, lower slowlyKeep back straight, avoid arching lower back, hands behind head (optional)
Bicep CurlBicepsStrengthens arms, tones musclesBeginner/IntermediateWater weights/noodlesUse light resistance, control movementAvoid overexertion, keep elbows close to the body
Leg SwingsHips, Inner ThighsImproves hip flexibility, strengthens inner thighsBeginnerNoneSwing gently side-to-side or front-to-backAvoid overexertion; keep elbows close to the body
Calf RaisesCalvesCardiovascular exercise improves coordinationBeginner/IntermediateNoneStart on balls of feet; raise heels slowly; control descentHold onto pool edge for balance if needed
Chest FlyChestWorks chest muscles, improves symmetry, upper body strengthBeginner/IntermediatePool noodlesHold noodles with extended arms; bring them together in front of the chestHold onto the pool edge for balance if needed
Jumping JacksCardio, CoordinationCardiovascular exercise, improves coordinationBeginner/IntermediateNoneLean against the pool wall; sit as if in the chair, knees bent 90 degreesMaintain an upright posture, avoid excessive kicking, focus on controlled leg lifts
Wall ChairLegs, CoreBuilds isometric leg strength, improves balanceBeginner/IntermediateNoneLean against the pool wall; sit as if in a chair, knees bent 90 degreesStart slow, gradually increase the intensity
High Knee LiftsLegs, CardioWorks hip flexors and core muscles to improve flexibilityBeginner/IntermediateNoneCardio exercise strengthens leg muscles and improves coordinationStart slow, gradually increase speed
Leg KicksHips, Core, FlexibilityWorks hip flexors and core muscles improve flexibilityBeginner/IntermediateNonePerform with small flutter kick motion for added resistance; avoid overextending legsWorks hip flexors and core muscles to improve flexibility

Best Pool Exercises for Seniors in 2024

We’ve compiled some of the best water exercises for seniors that you can do. Check them out.

Standing water push-ups

According to recent studies aquatic physical therapy is one of the healthiest water exercises to do for various reasons. Standing water push-ups help build upper-body strength, increase flexibility, and improve balance. These push-ups also significantly strengthen your arms, chest, and shoulders. Most importantly, like other simple water aerobics exercises for seniors, this one does not strain the muscles and joints too much, making it a simple and stress-free workout activity for older people.

Additionally, water-based push-ups enhance your coordination and agility.

Here’s how you can do this exercise:

water aerobics for seniors

  • Stand with your knees slightly bent in water.
  • Just before starting your push-ups, place your hands on the edge of the pool you are in. In this position, your hands are in front of you and resting on a solid surface while your lower body is submerged in water.
  • Slowly lower yourself onto your toes; this should be done without letting your knees bend further.
  • With your elbows locked and arms arrow straight, raise yourself to your starting position. This entire motion counts as one rep (short for repetition).

Initially, you can attempt to complete three to five reps in one go. After that, you can steadily increase the number of push-ups as your stamina increases. However, two common mistakes you must avoid are straining excessively or overdoing the number of reps when attempting standing water push-ups or bending your knees during each rep.

Aqua Jogging

Water walking is a common aquatic exercise and a regular part of swimming workouts for seniors. If you have been doing water walking for a while and need to increase the intensity of your exercises, you can try water jogging or running. This routine of healthy swimming exercise involves rapidly moving limbs underwater to burn calories and boost cardiovascular health. Not just that, aquatic exercises are brilliant for maintaining a healthy and peaceful mind. Here are the steps for a good round of aqua jogging:

  • Stand in the water with an upright back.
  • Begin jogging as if you were doing so normally on land.
  • While lifting your left leg, move your right hand forward, and while lifting your right leg, move your left hand forward.
  • You can also move your feet in cycling motion during this exercise.
  • While jogging, your stance should be leaning forward.
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Jogging or running for about 5 minutes is one of the best senior aquatic exercises for you. While jogging, make sure that you are taking deep breaths throughout. Additionally, you must use a floatation device like a noodle during this exercise.

Also, here are some tips to maximize the effectiveness of aqua jogging:

  • Begin at a slow pace before gradually speeding up.
  • Press your heels into the pool floor and avoid walking on tiptoes.

Punches with rotation

This activity is one of the many aquatic exercises for seniors with health benefits for multiple body zones. Punches with rotation thoroughly and positively affect your quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, abdominal muscles, shoulders, biceps, triceps, and muscular components that influence your walking and posture.

Here’s how you can do this exercise:

  • Stand in a pool with feet slightly wider apart than shoulder distance.
  • Bend your knees gently in a squatting position, and imagine that you are sitting on a chair.
  • With your arms at your sides, bend your elbows so that your upper arm and rib cage has space between them. Keep your palms facing one another in this pose.
  • Close your palms into fists before rotating your right palm toward the pool. In this motion, you are punching under the water.
  • While punching with your right palm, rotate your torso to the left.
  • Return to the starting position before punching with your left hand.
  • One right punch and left punch combination complete 1 rep.
  • You can do 2 to 3 sets of about 10 reps each.
  • Take short breaks of 2 to 3 minutes between each set.

water aerobics exercises

Flutter Kicking

Flutter kicks are a basic swimming skill, but you can include this exercise in your 30-minute pool workout routine due to its multiple health benefits. Flutter kicking is good for cardiovascular health as it gets your heart pumped up without applying too much strain. Additionally, this exercise intensively works your abdominal muscles, shoulders, biceps, and forearms. This is an excellent way to get a good upper-body workout.

While you do not necessarily need a kickboard for flutter kicks, if you have one, you can hold it in front of you and kick your legs as you glide back and forth in the water. Without a board, you can simply use the side of a pool as a support for flutter kicking. Here’s a straightforward way to do this during your senior swimming workouts:

  • Hold a kickboard or the edge of the pool.
  • With your arms bent, extend your legs straight behind you. This will look like you are doing a plank on the water’s surface.
  • Kick your legs up and down alternatively. Breathing is a key part of water aerobic routines for seniors, so remember to inhale and exhale big breaths while doing this exercise.
  • Perform the kicking for about 30 seconds to a minute. That counts as one set.
  • After a rest of 3 minutes, you can begin doing the second set.
  • Complete 3 sets regularly to experience the positive effects of flutter kicks.

Flutter kicks can increase your kicking duration by gradually building your core strength and stamina.

Arm Curls

Curls feature among the other highly beneficial aqua exercises for seniors on most “best workouts” lists. After all, arm curls boost your arms and upper body strength and resilience. You can use a pair of water weights to get the most out of this activity. These weights create more resistance and make the exercise slightly more demanding for your body.

Here’s how you can execute arm curls without any hassles:

  • In the starting position, stand in the pool holding a pair of water weights.
  • Hold out the weights in front of you. Your palms will face forward during this step.
  • Bend your elbows. Using the weights, curl your arms towards your chest.

You can initially do this exercise in slow movements and with comfortable, light water weights. Gradually, you can increase the number of reps and weights to maximize the impact of your arm curls. Another important thing to consider is that you will need a shoulder-deep water level in your swimming pool to perform this exercise effectively.

Leg lifts

There are two kinds of leg lifts with slightly different performance mechanisms. Here is the process of doing the first type of leg lift. This exercise closely involves your hip extensions:

  • Keep your feet shoulder-width apart and your toes facing forward. Hold onto the swimming pool wall with your right hand. Ensure that your back is straight and your eyes are looking forward. This is the starting position of this exercise.
  • Gently lift your left leg while keeping your knee straight. Slowly swing your left leg forward and backward. Each forward + backward swing counts as a rep. To emphasize, avoid bending your knees during the lifts.
  • Repeat the procedure, this time with your right leg, while using your left hand as the support.
  • Complete 3 sets each of 10 reps for each leg.
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The second kind of leg lift impacts your hip adduction. Here’s the process:

  • Hold the railing or pool wall with your right hand just as you did in the previous routine.
  • Gently raise your left leg out sidewards before bringing it back in front of your body and past the standing right foot. During each lift, ensure that your toes point forward and your knee is as straight as possible.
  • Repeat the lifts for 10 reps before carrying out the same process with the left leg. You can attempt to do two to three sets of 10 reps each leg with 1 to 3-minute breaks between them.

Step marches

Marches are among the most crucial water exercises for seniors as body areas such as hip flexors, working glutes, and hamstrings are commonly vulnerable for several older people. Step marches boost the strength and resilience of these parts. You can do step marches in the shallow end of the pool or on any pool step, as it offers a good test of your balance, while the lower steps in the pool are helpful to boost your strength.

Here are the steps to correctly perform step marches:

  • Stand in the pool with your feet hip-distance apart.
  • Without letting your pelvis drop, lift your right knee towards your chest.
  • Take your knee back to the starting position.
  • Perform the same activity with the left knee before returning it to the starting position. The right knee and left knee combination counts as one rep.
  • Repeat the same for 8 to 10 reps in a set.
  • Perform 3 sets and take breaks of 1 to 3 minutes in between.

This exercise mimics the movement of a marching band on land. The water resistance of the pool is the main component that works your muscles thoroughly and tones them. You can use a rhythmic march and steady pace for the best results.

Jumping Jacks

As you have seen, many senior aquatic exercises listed here help tone and boost the upper-body parts and functionality. Jumping jacks help the upper- as well as lower-body zones, such as your thighs and calves. Additionally, jumping jacks boost your heart rate to keep your cardiovascular health on top. Many consider this one of the best water exercises for seniors and cardio/treadmill running alternatives. The other body areas that benefit from this exercise are the legs, hip, abdomen, thigh, and shoulder muscles.

Here is the step-by-step guide to aquatic jumping jacks:

  • The starting position involves standing with the back straightened, feet together firmly planted in the swimming pool, and arms down your sides.
  • Jump with the feet apart and lift your arms overhead while doing so.
  • Jump again, this time with the feet together and the arms returning to your sides.
  • Repeat this about 10 times. This counts as a set.
  • Perform about two to three sets with 1 to 3 minutes between breaks.

Pull-ups

Aquatic pull-ups have a similar working mechanism and benefits as standard pull-ups. Water pull-ups strengthen your shoulders, back, and abdomen muscles. You can combine two water exercises in your 30-minute pool workout to optimize daily exercises. For example, you can combine your pull-ups with flutter kicking to involve your back leg muscles in your workout.

Here are the steps to getting your pull-ups right:

  • Grab the side wall of the swimming pool.
  • Lift your feet and have them straight behind you as if you were doing a plank exercise on the water’s surface. Your arms will be bent during this phase.
  • In the horizontal pose, kick your legs up and down to keep you on the surface or above it in the water.
  • Straighten your elbows and maintain a straight back. This is the ideal starting position.
  • Bending your elbows, pull yourself towards the pool’s edge.
  • Perform about 10 reps and rest for about 1 to 3 minutes.
  • Complete 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps each.

While doing the pull-ups, ensure you do not hit your head on the swimming pool edge.

Chest fly

This water exercise for seniors is an effective way to focus and improve the muscles and the shape of your chest. Here are the basic guidelines for this water activity:

  • Stand in the water with your feet placed in front of the other. Now, bend your knees slightly to maintain your balance.
  • With your arms stretching forward and elbows straight, you must push your arms to your sides before bringing them back forward.
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You can begin this exercise without any weights. Once you find it easy, you can hold water weights in your hands to make the exercise more strenuous and effective.

Arm raises

Arm raises are similar to bicep curls, and many instructions that apply to the latter also work for the former. Here are the steps to do arm raises in water:

  • Your starting position is with your arms straight down your sides.
  • Slowly raise your arms while keeping them straight and your elbow locked until they extend sideways from your shoulders. Your arms will remain just underneath the water’s surface.
  • Slowly bring your arms back to the starting position. This counts as one rep.
  • You can do about 10 to 12 reps in a set and take a 1 to 3-minute break between each set.
  • Do the same exercise for 3 to 4 sets.

Freestyle swimming

This is the most straightforward exercise when it comes to pool exercises for seniors. Simple freestyle swims around the pool are equivalent to a good workout session in your local gym. If you do not have a 30-minute pool workout plan, just an hour-long swim is enough to keep you healthy.

One of the most overlooked benefits of swimming is its strengthening of your cardiovascular health. Swimming freestyle can have a few shortcomings, though. One needs to increase bone strength, which is necessary for seniors. While swimming is enriching, one must remember to do water-based weight training to keep the bones, muscles, and joints in good shape.

Calf raises

Calf raises are helpful to stretch the legs and strengthen your calf and thigh muscles. Doing them daily boosts the strength and endurance of the lower back muscles.

  • The starting position involves standing on the swimming pool floor with your feet at a shoulder-width distance from one another.
  • After that, raise your toes slightly while keeping your soles and heels planted firmly on the pool floor. Hold this pose for 10 seconds.
  • Gently lower your toes without any abrupt jerking movement, bending at the knees, or leaning forward over your toes.

Wall chair

The wall chair is a challenging exercise due to its isometric nature. But, if you attempt it, you can possibly experience several benefits, such as endurance and lower body strength. In this routine, the entire body weight rests directly on the knees and calves. This is why many people who do this exercise for the first time find it difficult to hold the stress position for 5 to 7 seconds.

Here are the steps involved in wall chair:

  • This exercise involves you standing with your back to the pool wall. In that position, you must touch the wall behind you with both hands. It is okay if your elbows are bending in this position.
  • Let go of your feet from the pool floor and bring them to your chest. Hold this position for 5 to 10 seconds before bringing your feet to the swimming pool floor.
  • You can repeat this procedure 10 times and take breaks of 1 to 3 minutes after every set of 10. In addition, a wall chair is beneficial for a number of your body areas, such as your back, thighs, and upper arms.

Wall push-ups

This water exercise for seniors is a variation of the standing push-ups done in a swimming pool. Here’s how you can perfect it:

  • Place your hands on the pool wall with a shoulder-width distance in between.
  • Lean into the wall slowly before pushing away from it using your arms. Your feet should be planted on the floor.
  • Keep your balance intact, and make sure not to lock your elbows.
  • Do about 10 reps in each set. Taking a break of 1 to 3 minutes between each one, complete 3 sets.
  • As your energy builds, you can add more reps to each set.

Hamstring curls

Strengthening your hamstrings becomes a bigger and bigger priority as you age, so hamstring curls become one of the most effective pool exercises for seniors. Here’s how you can do it:

  • In a standing position, face the pool wall and hold it with one or both hands for balance, if necessary.
  • Bend your left leg back at the knee. This may seem like you are trying to kick your glutes.
  • Bring your foot back on the floor again.
  • Try to do 10 reps before switching to the other side.

Make sure that you are not bringing your knee forward during this workout. Additionally, you must prevent your opposite hip from pushing to the side to compensate for all the movement.

Arm circles

This water exercise for seniors involves shoulder-deep water. So, squat slowly to bring the water level above your shoulders in a shallow pool. Lift your arms out sidewards and keep your palms facing down. Move your arms in a circular motion for about 15 seconds in the clockwise direction, after which you can do this procedure in the anticlockwise direction.

Safety Gear For Seniors During Water Activities

While gliding through a swimming pool, playing water games, and doing some of the best water exercises for seniors for at least 150 minutes a week can be a great way to spend your time, you must also take certain safety precautions to avoid unfortunate incidents. Below are some of the most helpful safety gear for water activities:

Pool alarms

A pool alarm rings whenever someone steps into the pool area, alerting you of their presence. As a result, keeping tabs on your family and friends is possible with this tool on your side.

These devices are portable, easily set up, and work in regular and inflatable pools. It is an ideal device to prevent drowning incidents in pools as it sounds like a loud alert whenever it detects any disturbance in the water. On the downside, pool alarms can trigger several false alarms and do not cover larger pools.

Life jackets

Life jackets are a good safety measure for at-risk seniors who can’t swim or cannot stay afloat. You can wear a life jacket and enter the water to prevent drowning. Life jackets contain inflated panels and floatable materials that keep you floating on the surface of the swimming pool rather than sinking due to your weight.

Safe grab bars

Safety grab bars are essential for balance and support in the pool. Without them, your hand can slip on the pool bars or stairs while you enter or exit the pool. Pool bars are made of rubber and similar materials to help you grip the bars better.

Non-slip pool deck

Similar to safety grab bars, a non-slip pool deck prevents you from slipping and falling on wet and moist surfaces.

Buying safety gear comes down to several factors, such as personal style choices, the size of gear needed, potential allergies, and others. Also, not everyone may set aside a large budget for these devices while planning their swimming holidays or exercise plans. There is plenty of room for various permutations and combinations to fit in. Therefore, based on your needs and budgets, you can choose the pool deck that suits your style, material, and size-based requirements.

Conclusion

Many people believe that water exercises for seniors are better than normal ones. This is mainly because of the positive effect of the water’s depth and thickness on your body when you do the exercises mentioned above. This is why many healthcare experts advise older people to participate in such routines to increase their quality of life.

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Editorial Team

The Editorial Team at Modern60 is a group of highly skilled professionals with diverse backgrounds in journalism, content creation, editing, and digital media. They bring a wealth of experience and expertise to ensure that every piece of content meets our strict editorial guidelines and quality standards. The team is dedicated to delivering accurate, well-researched, and engaging content across various subjects, including health, wellness, lifestyle, and current events. With their commitment to upholding the highest standards of journalism and content creation, the Modern60 Editorial Team is the driving force behind our mission to empower and inspire our readers.

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Frequently Asked Question's

Frequently Asked Question's

How Often Should Seniors Do Water Aerobics?

Seniors are generally recommended to do water aerobics at least two to three times a week for optimal health benefits.

Is Water Exercise As Good As Walking?

Water exercise can be as beneficial as walking, due to its low-impact nature. It provides cardiovascular benefits, improves muscle strength, and offers joint support.

What Is The Best Aerobic Exercise For A 65 Year Old Woman?

Low-impact exercises like walking, swimming, cycling, or water aerobics are generally considered the best aerobic exercises for a 65-year-old woman, as they are gentle on the joints while still providing cardiovascular benefits.

Why Should You Stretch Hamstrings As You Get Older?

Stretching the hamstrings as you age helps maintain flexibility, improve posture, reduce the risk of muscle imbalances, and prevent injury, as tight hamstrings can contribute to lower back pain and affect mobility.

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