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If you enjoy walking but would like to change things up from your usual routine, water walking is an option that can boost your fitness.

This low-impact exercise not only has the potential to give you a great cardio workout, it can also help you burn calories, while building strength in many muscle groups.

Here’s a look at the benefits of water walking, how to do it safely, and variations you can try for added fitness benefits.

Water is much denser than air. Exercising in water requires more effort than the same exercise on land.

The extra resistance of walking in water allows you to challenge and strengthen your muscles in ways you may not be able to with a land-based routine. It also helps you burn more calories, which can aid in weight loss.

Water walking is a low-impact cardio exercise. This means it’s gentler on your bones and joints, making it a safer exercise option for people who have conditions like arthritis, osteoporosis, or fibromyalgia.

By putting less pressure and stress on your body, water walking can also be a good workout for:

  • those who are pregnant
  • people recovering from an injury
  • seniors
  • anyone new to exercise

A 2015 study also found that walking in water can raise your heart rate more than walking on land. This can give your heart and lungs more of a workout.

According to another study, water walking may help with lowering blood pressure, especially for people who are new to exercise. And a study of patients with spinal stenosis found that 12 weeks of water walking helped improve their balance and muscle function.

You don’t need much gear for water walking, and most gyms will have equipment available for you to use. Some fitness centers may even have water treadmills or elliptical trainers that you can use.

If you’re planning to do water walking at a gym or as part of a class, you’ll likely only need a towel, swim cap and, if you want, a pair of goggles.

If you’re planning to do water walking on your own, you may want to look at getting some of the following equipment:

  • strap-on wrist or ankle weights
  • hand webs or resistance gloves
  • foam dumbbells

Shop for weights, resistance gloves, and foam dumbbells online.

To start off, try walking in water that’s about waist level. Focus on walking with proper form. To do this, keep your:

  • core and back muscles engaged
  • back straight and lengthened
  • shoulders back
  • chin up, with your head looking straight ahead
  • ears over your shoulders

As you walk in water, try to make sure you:

  • keep your torso upright without leaning too far forward or to either side
  • walk with a long stride
  • press into your heel first before rolling your weight onto your toes
  • swing your arms as you walk

Once you’re used to walking in water with the right form, you can move into deeper water. Start off by walking slowly and gradually increase your speed.

Once you’ve gotten the hang of walking in water, you can mix up your routine with some variations.

Begin with one lap of each variation and gradually increase until you can do two to three laps of each.

High knees

Lifting your knees higher can add intensity to water walking. It can also help work the muscles in your legs and core, as well as your glutes and hip flexors.

To do this variation:

  1. Engage your core and lift your right knee as high as you can.
  2. At the same time, raise your left arm.
  3. Switch and do the same with your left knee and right arm.

Walking lunges

Walking lunges can work your quads, hamstrings, calves, and glutes. For this exercise variation, walk in water that’s at waist level.

To do this exercise:

  1. Step forward with your right foot.
  2. Lower your front thigh so it’s parallel to the bottom of the pool. Make sure your right knee is in line with, but not over, your ankle. Keep your back leg straight.
  3. Bring your left foot forward, and continue by stepping forward with your left leg.

Another variation of this exercise is to do side lunges instead of forward lunges. Side lunges help to work your adductor muscles which are located on the inside of your thighs.

Sideways walking

This water walking variation targets your inner and outer thigh muscles.

To do this exercise:

  • Stand sideways with your right hip leading.
  • Step your right foot to the side.
  • Bring your left foot to meet your right.
  • Continue like this until you get to the end of the pool.
  • Walk back with your left hip leading.

To dial up the intensity of water walking, you can give your upper body a more challenging workout by using wrist weights, foam dumbbells, resistance gloves, or hand webs with any of these exercises.

For your lower body, you can create a more challenging workout by using ankle weights, or you could try walking with a resistance parachute.

Another way to up the intensity is to jog instead of walking in water. Or you can do interval training by jogging or running for 30 seconds, then walking at your regular speed for a couple of minutes. You can continue to alternate between the faster and slower pace for 5 to 10 minutes.

  • Stay hydrated. You may not notice how much you’re sweating when you’re working out in water. It’s important to stay well hydrated, especially if the pool is heated.
  • Be careful of slippery surfaces. Also watch out for sharp edges and corners. To help prevent slips, you may want to wear water shoes.
  • Wear a floatation device. This is especially helpful if you’re not a strong swimmer or have balance issues.
  • Stop if you feel pain. Don’t try to force any movement if it doesn’t feel comfortable.
  • Avoid pools that are heated above 90°F (32.2°C). Pools heated at 82 to 88°F (27.8 to 31°C) can help soothe pain, but it may not be safe to work out in water that’s heated above that range.

Stop immediately and seek help if you feel:

  • light-headed or dizzy
  • unable to breathe
  • faint or weak
  • pain or pressure in your chest or upper body
  • nauseous
  • confused

Talk to your doctor before starting a water workout, especially if you have any medical concerns or take prescription medications.

Walking in water is an excellent cardio and resistance training exercise option. It can help strengthen and tone many muscle groups, while burning calories and being gentle on your bones and joints.

Start off slowly and gradually increase the duration and intensity of your workouts. You can make it fun and interesting by trying variations and using different equipment. By doing so you may find that water walking becomes a regular part of your fitness routine.