June 22, 2016

Keep your fitness routine while beating the summer heat with water exercises.


When the weather gets steamy, turn to the water to stay cool and add variety to your normal fitness routine. The water also provides resistance to movements, which helps to strengthen muscles and elevate the heart rate.

Many types of health conditions greatly benefit from pool exercise, too, including arthritis, fibromyalgia, back pain, joint replacements, neurological issues and balance. Try these pool exercises that can be tailored to meet the fitness needs of anyone from beginner to the serious athlete:

1. Flutter kicks

From the water, rest your elbows on the edge of the pool or on the stairs and kick, kick, kick. Try to keep legs underneath the water as much as possible for more resistance and less splash. For a slightly more advanced workout, try doing flutter kicks while balancing on a noodle (you may need more than one noodle to hold you up). If your pool has a kickboard, hold onto the board with arms extended in front of you, stomach down in the water, while you kick and move around the pool or in a lap lane.

2. Bicycles

Doing the bicycle in water is a great workout for abs and legs and it gets the heart pumping. Rest your elbows on the edge of the pool or on the stairs, with your body facing away from the pool wall or stairs, and cycle away. Try to keep legs underneath the water as much as possible for more resistance and less splash. For a slightly more advanced workout, head for deeper water and try doing bicycles while balancing on a noodle, or looping two noodles through your armpits. “Pedal” around the pool while you check out the scenery.

3. Pool walking or running

A common routine used by physical therapists for their patients and by injured runners, walking or running in water is a great workout. Beginners, start with forward and backward walking in chest- or waist-high water. Walk about 10 to 20 steps forward, then walk backward. Increase speed to make it more difficult. The deeper the water, the harder it will be. To increase intensity, jog in place. Keep abs tight, swing arms and lift knees high toward your chest for the most advanced level. Many pools have water flotation belts that can help you stay afloat so you won’t touch the bottom of the pool.

4. High knees

This is another great workout for the core, arms and legs. Stand in the pool where the water is chest high. March your left knee up, and swing your right arm forward at the same time. As your left knee comes down, march your right knee up and swing your left arm forward. Move laterally through the water as if you were walking sideways across a room instead of front to back.

5. Laps

It doesn’t matter if you like the breaststroke, the crawl, the butterfly or the backstroke, lap swimming requires powering through the pool with your full body, giving your legs, arms, core and heart a workout. Be sure to keep your ankles flexible and your toes pointed. Kick from your hips so your legs are able to move behind you and give yourself a good push off the wall. Do as many laps as you can before stopping to rest. Try using fins under water, which will use the natural resistance of the water to make your legs work harder. Be sure to follow pool etiquette, including sharing lanes when needed and staying to the right as you swim.

6. Resistance train

Water weights are foam barbells that create resistance under water. For a great arm workout, start with your arms at your sides. Grip the bars of the water weights with your palms facing up. Raise your forearms to the level of the water, keeping your elbows close to your body and your wrists straight. Then turn the barbells over so that the palms of your hands face the bottom of the pool. Push your hands down until your arms are straight again. Repeat until your arms are fatigued.


Stacey Kendrick, MS, is a health educator with more than 20 years of experience in wellness and population health. She spent much of her career at Vanderbilt’s Faculty/Staff Wellness Program and currently works in Strategic Marketing at Vanderbilt. She is mother to two adult daughters. In her free time, she teaches healthy cooking classes, runs, gardens and enjoys backyard bonfires.


kickboard workout














The Vanderbilt Recreation and Wellness Center Aquatics Program offers access to the community for swimming laps, swim lessons and kayaking workshops. The pool offers a disability pool lift, kick boards, noodles, aqua jogger belts and hand paddles. Towels, goggles and caps are available for purchase. A variety of membership options are available for the Rec Center, including options for the general public, students, Vanderbilt faculty and staff and guests. Discounted summer rates are also offered.