Everyone knows how important it is to get regular exercise.

We exercise to improve our energy and increase our strength and flexibility. But for seniors, aching joints, arthritis, and sore backs can make it difficult — if not downright impossible — to even go for a walk. Luckily, just adding water can make a world of difference.

Working out in water is a great way to reduce stress and pressure on your joints while enjoying the many benefits of cardiovascular and resistance training. Even better? With these five exercises, you don’t even need an instructor!

The benefits of exercising in water

According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise is important for:

  • strengthening the muscles surrounding our joints
  • maintaining existing bone density
  • giving you more energy
  • helping you sleep better
  • managing your weight
  • improving your self-esteem

And while it may seem better to avoid exercise so you don’t aggravate painful joints, the opposite is actually true. The Mayo Clinic warns that not exercising will weaken the supporting muscles around your joints, leading to more pain and stiffness.

Moving from the land to the water transforms the same movements into low-impact and low-weight-bearing exercises. While this will not benefit bone density, it will reduce the jarring force that typically comes from footsteps, which impacts all parts of your body, including joints, tendons, bones, ligaments, and muscles. It’s reduced significantly in the water, and that means a reduced burden on your entire body.

There are other benefits to water workouts, too. The natural buoyancy of water offers support to your body, which minimizes chances of injury and stress on your joints. Moving through water also offers resistance, which is important for strengthening your muscles. And when you exercise in a pool that is heated, the warm water will be soothing to your joints.

Many gyms and community pools offer some form of group fitness in the water, but you don’t need an instructor to get a good workout. Consider finding a friend to join you at the pool. Even 30 minutes of gentle swimming once or twice a week will be beneficial to your heart and lungs, strength, flexibility, and muscle tone. And you’ll have the added benefit of spending time with a friend.

Try these five exercises for a full-body workout, which can help increase your mobility while decreasing stress on your lower body. Remember to speak to your doctor before beginning any exercise program.

Perform each of these exercises in the shallow end of the pool and consider investing in pool shoes to help protect the bottoms of your feet. Begin with eight to 10 repetitions of each exercise twice weekly. You can build up to two or three sets of each exercise, three times a week.

Water marching

Begin your water workout with this full-body exercise.

  1. Stand up straight in water that’s about chest-high.
  2. Breathe evenly, and then extend your arms and legs as far you can in a stationary marching motion. The water’s resistance against the movement of your arms and legs in the water will keep you in slow motion, so try to emphasize every part of the movement.
  3. Point your toes and swing your arms with energy, aiming for a steady and rhythmic march.
  4. Continue marching until you’re a little out of breath, then rest before beginning your next exercise.

Leg swing

  1. In water that’s about waist-high, stand sideways to the edge of the pool and hold on with one hand, knees slightly bent.
  2. Lift one leg and swing it out in front of you as high as you can. Pause and then bring it back down to stand on both feet again.
  3. Complete one set on the first leg, and then turn around so you’re facing the other direction, opposite hand holding the edge of the pool, and complete a set with the other leg.
  4. You can increase range of motion with this exercise by swinging the leg back and to the sides also.

Calf raises

  1. In water that’s waist- or chest-high, hold on to the edge of the pool or a pool ladder.
  2. Shift your weight onto the balls of your feet and lift your heels up and away from the bottom of the pool until you’re standing on your toes.
  3. Pause and then lower your heels down again.

Chest fly

  1. Begin in water that’s about chest-high.
  2. Hold your arms out in front of you at chest height, with your hands facing in under the water.
  3. Move your arms out to the sides, pushing through the water, and then slowly push them back to the center.

Arm curls

  1. In water that’s about waist- to chest-high, stand upright.
  2. Make fists, then bend your arms at the elbow so your fists are near your shoulders facing toward your body.
  3. Keeping your elbows tucked against your body, lower your fists until your arms are straight and down by your hips.
  4. Return to the starting position, keeping your elbows in place and focusing on the movement from the elbow down.

The takeaway

If you find that working out on land is just too hard on your joints, a water workout may be exactly what you need. These exercises can be done in any pool, without an instructor. So grab a friend and dive in!

Whether you’ve been active all your life or you’re just beginning, water exercises are a great way to get your heart rate up. Your joints will thank you.