Come on in, the Water’s Great!

Easy Exercises for Older Adults (and everyone else!)

By: Leslie Barker | 

I just finished swimming a mile. I’m only telling you because I am just so tickled and want to share my accomplishment.

Before the pandemic closed the gyms, I used to swim a mile every Sunday. When my gym reopened, I picked up swimming again, but never as far as before.

So today was special.

And finishing that final lap reminded me what swimming makes possible.

  • Strong arms, strong legs, strong core; swimming is one exercise that uses every muscle in our bodies.
  • It improves our sleep.
  • Like any exercise, swimming can do wonders for our hearts.
  • It’s a godsend for people with arthritis, or those who might’ve been injured during another workout.
  • Swimming can help lower our cholesterol, blood pressure, and stress levels.
  • And it can raise our spirits.


That last one, honestly, is the main reason I go. I may take forever to get going, but then I think to myself, “25 minutes are going to pass whether you get in the water or not. So, in 25 minutes, do you want to be finished, or do you want to still be standing here?”

That gets me in. And I know that as hard as I may work at it, when I’m finished, I’m awash in bliss. I love it because, although there are ways to listen to music while swimming, I choose not to do so. I prefer the sound of the water, of my breathing, of my kicking, of my arms as they pull me to the other side.

I also like how swimming one lap seems exhausting but gets easier as I keep going. And that building distance isn’t difficult. It just takes persistence.

5 Great Water Exercises for Non-Lap Swimmers

Maybe you’re not a lap swimmer. That’s fine; you can still get a good water workout no matter what your age—whether you are young or an older adult. Attend a water aerobics class. Or try these exercises in your neighborhood pool or the one in your backyard. Be sure you have someone close by though; even accomplished swimmers can be at risk of drowning.

1. Go for a walk in the water.

Sure, you can walk on the sidewalk, but these days, a cool (or even cool-ish) pool will be a lot more satisfying. Plus, being in the water provides resistance — 15 times more than doing the same exercise on land, reports —making a stroll more of a challenge. Want to make it tougher? March, either in place or from one end of the pool to another.

2. Do jumping jacks.

Whoa, tougher than it sounds; there’s water resistance at play. Try 10, rest or do another exercise, then try 10 more.

3. Or just jump.

Do a few jumps on your toes, then bend your knees and use your arms to propel yourself upward.

4. Try pushups against the side of the pool.

Stand a few feet away from the edge of the pool. Lean into it, bending your elbows till your face almost touches it. Push yourself back and repeat. Aim for five pushups, then rest for 30 seconds. That’s one set. Repeat two or three times.

5. Work your triceps, too.

Facing forward, put your palms behind you on the edge of the pool. As you bend your elbows, bend your knees. Keeping your palms steady, stand up so your elbows and your knees are straight. Follow the same repetitions as you do with pushups.

Sometimes, at the pool, I swim in the lane next to a man who may not be speedy, but whose strokes are methodical and strong. He told me how proud his doctor is of him because he’s lost weight and his blood pressure has dropped. Recently, he told me he had swum a mile for the first time in his life. He was positively beaming.

And now today I did the same thing. Here’s one more benefit of working out in the water – be it swimming or the above exercises: The chance to inspire.

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