Coach Todd, MMT, MPA

Coach Todd, MMT, MPA

Injury Prevention Expert and Joint Rejuvenation Specialist

10 Best “Senior-Friendly” Pool Exercises to Ease Joint Pain & Build Strength

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We know movement is medicine, but what can we do when traditional movements — like strength training and jogging — are too intense for our joints to handle? We take it to the water, of course…

Written by: Coach Todd

10 Best “Senior-Friendly” Pool Exercises to Ease Joint Pain & Build Strength | Feel Good Life with Coach Todd

Staying active is the best way to preserve strength and wellness as we age but if we have joint pain, exercise can be difficult. Pools, however, have become a common alternative to traditional strength training options.

Exercising in the water is a great way to stay fit and active, particularly for older people with painful joints that have been around the block several times.

Every system in your body is involved when you swim — a real full-body workout. Even better, joints are far less stressed because much of our weight is supported by the water.

These low- impact exercises for seniors improve not only our aerobic capacity and strength but also increase our flexibility, balance, and coordination.

With each stroke, we’re able to improve recovery efforts while achieving a great workout… on top of these other incredible benefits!

 

Benefits of Pool Exercises

  1. Warm water offers a calming and soothing atmosphere for the muscles and joints that are sore.
  2. The natural viscosity or resistance of the water can be utilized to strengthen muscles.
  3. Buoyancy enables flotation and reduces the impact of gravity on damaged or adversely affected joints and muscles.
  4. Hydrostatic pressure helps and stabilizes our body, allowing us to do exercises without having to fear falling.

Most of all, exercising in water is enjoyable, which makes it much more likely that you will be able to make your daily exercise a routine in which you can stay healthy, enjoy life, and maintain freedom.

Below are some pool exercises for seniors to include in your next swim session:

 

Full Body Routine – Exercises to Do in the Pool

As with all exercise programs, before hopping right into the main sets, it’s important to complete a warm-up to prepare the body for what’s to come.

Warm-up

Water walking is a great and gentle way to warm-up your body.

10 Best “Senior-Friendly” Pool Exercises to Ease Joint Pain & Build Strength | Feel Good Life with Coach Todd

Walk forward for the length of the pool and then backwards.

Repeat this motion 3 times.

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10 Best “Senior-Friendly” Pool Exercises to Ease Joint Pain & Build Strength | Feel Good Life with Coach Todd

Now walk sideways to your left and back to your right.

Repeat this motion 3 times.

Once your heart rate has increased a bit, and your body is ready to really move, perform the following:

Lower Body Exercises

Forward Lunges

10 Best “Senior-Friendly” Pool Exercises to Ease Joint Pain & Build Strength | Feel Good Life with Coach Todd

This movement can be done in waist-deep water or higher. Take a big step forward, then bend at the knees to lower yourself deeper into the pool.

Be sure to not allow your front knee to go past your toes.

Using your front foot, push yourself back up, and repeat on the other leg.

Complete 3 sets of 5 reps each leg.

To progress this exercise: challenge yourself by speeding up your movements.

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Side Lunges

10 Best “Senior-Friendly” Pool Exercises to Ease Joint Pain & Build Strength | Feel Good Life with Coach Todd

Take a step to the side — taking care to keep the non-working leg straight — bend at the knee and push your hips back to lower yourself into the water.

Extend your leg to rise up, bringing the leading foot back to the start and switch sides.

Complete 3 sets of 5 reps each leg.

To progress this exercise: challenge yourself by speeding up your movements.

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One-Leg Balance

While standing tall in waist-deep (or higher) water, lift one leg up in front of you. Maintain a straight leg, pointing the toes towards the sky, and your hands on the hips.

Try to hold for 60 seconds before switching legs.

Repeat this 3 times.

To process this exercise: begin to incorporate some arm movements. Swing your arms back and forth while you try to stay balanced for an added challenge.

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Squats

10 Best “Senior-Friendly” Pool Exercises to Ease Joint Pain & Build Strength | Feel Good Life with Coach Todd

Widen your feet until they are slightly wider than hip-width apart, and toes pointed out at a 45-degree angle. Squeeze your butt muscles before “unlocking” the hips and sitting back into the water as low as your mobility allows.

Drive through your heels, taking care to not shift your weight forward, as you rise up to a standing position once again. Complete 3 sets of 5 reps.

To progress this exercise: widen your stance further and turn your feet out.

10 Best “Senior-Friendly” Pool Exercises to Ease Joint Pain & Build Strength | Feel Good Life with Coach Todd

Again, sit back this time into a sumo squat to strengthen new leg muscles. 

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3-Way Hip Kicks

10 Best “Senior-Friendly” Pool Exercises to Ease Joint Pain & Build Strength | Feel Good Life with Coach Todd

While standing in waist-deep water, lift your right leg straight in front of you. Lower back down.

10 Best “Senior-Friendly” Pool Exercises to Ease Joint Pain & Build Strength | Feel Good Life with Coach Todd

Immediately lift to the side. Lower back down.

10 Best “Senior-Friendly” Pool Exercises to Ease Joint Pain & Build Strength | Feel Good Life with Coach Todd

Finally, lift your leg behind you, keeping your leg straight as best you can. Be sure not to arch your back.

Complete 5 reps each direction before switching to the left leg.

Repeat 3 times through. 

To progress this exercise: incorporate some upper body movements including: reaching above the head, pushing arms forward, or reaching towards the foot as your leg moves. 

10 Best “Senior-Friendly” Pool Exercises to Ease Joint Pain & Build Strength | Feel Good Life with Coach Todd

Feel Good LifeHeel Raises

10 Best “Senior-Friendly” Pool Exercises to Ease Joint Pain & Build Strength | Feel Good Life with Coach Todd

Standing in the center of the pool, slowly begin to lift your heels off the ground, keeping your ankles in line with your knees.

Rise the heels as far as your mobility allows before controlling the descent back to the ground.

Complete 3 sets of 5 reps.

To progress this exercise: place your feet on the edge of a step (preferably with a handle or chair nearby for added support) with the heels hanging off. Again, lift your heels as high as your mobility allows before lowering with control, this time with an added stretch in your calf.

Upper Body Exercises

Arm Raises

10 Best “Senior-Friendly” Pool Exercises to Ease Joint Pain & Build Strength | Feel Good Life with Coach Todd

Using arm paddles, webbed gloves, or spreading your fingers out wide for added resistance, start with your arms at your sides.

Raise your arms out to the sides. Once you’ve reached your arms parallel with the bottom of the pool, lower back down. 

Complete 3 sets of 5 reps.

To progress this exercise: begin to increase your pace to add a new challenge while increasing your strength levels.

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Push-Ups

10 Best “Senior-Friendly” Pool Exercises to Ease Joint Pain & Build Strength | Feel Good Life with Coach Todd

While standing in the pool, place your arms shoulder-width apart on the pool wall/edge.

10 Best “Senior-Friendly” Pool Exercises to Ease Joint Pain & Build Strength | Feel Good Life with Coach Todd

Slowly lower your body towards the pool wall until your chest almost touches the side. Then push yourself back to the starting position.

Repeat 3 sets of 5 reps. 

10 Best “Senior-Friendly” Pool Exercises to Ease Joint Pain & Build Strength | Feel Good Life with Coach ToddTo progress this exercise: begin to raise your body up and halfway out of the water, keeping elbows slightly bent. Hold 3 seconds and slowly lower back into the pool. 

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Arm Circles

10 Best “Senior-Friendly” Pool Exercises to Ease Joint Pain & Build Strength | Feel Good Life with Coach Todd

Standing as deep into the pool as you can while keeping your head above the water, raise your arms so that your body makes a “T” shape. Slowly circle your arms forward, initiating the movement from your shoulders.

Complete 20 reps before reversing the movement into backward arm circles. Repeat this circle for 2 sets.

To progress this exercise: increase your pace to add a new challenge while increasing your strength levels. 

Feel Good LifeArm Bicycles

10 Best “Senior-Friendly” Pool Exercises to Ease Joint Pain & Build Strength | Feel Good Life with Coach Todd


While standing in deeper water, place your hands straight out in front of you. Hold onto two buoys or water paddles. 

Imagine two bike pedals in front of you. Push the “bike” forward with your hands, alternating with arm is extending and which is bent.

Complete 20 reps before changing direction, and “pedaling” the bike backward. Repeat this series 3 times through.

To progress this exercise: increase the speed of the motion and hold the buoys down deeper in the water. 

Feel Good LifeArm Flutters 

10 Best “Senior-Friendly” Pool Exercises to Ease Joint Pain & Build Strength | Feel Good Life with Coach Todd

With arms down at the sides, face your knuckles forward underneath the water (for added resistance, spread your fingers out wide). Push your right hand toward backward as you pull your left hand forward.

Continue alternating your arms in this flutter pattern for 20 reps.

Repeat 3 times.

To progress this exercise: hold onto water buoys for added resistance. 

Through each of these water exercises for seniors with arthritis, we want to keep our core braced and engaged the entire time.

Try to keep your belly button pulled in towards your spine the entire time. This will also help to improve postures, as it naturally lifts our shoulders over our hips — creating a neutral spine throughout the movements.

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