Water Walking

Brunette woman wearing swimsuit smiles and wades in the ocean at sunset

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Just because you're on vacation, it doesn't mean you have to ditch your exercise routine. Water walking is an easy, effective, low-impact exercise that can be done in a pool, lake, or even the ocean. Brisk water walking can provide an excellent aerobic workout, and water provides more resistance of air, so you’re strengthening and building muscle as you water walk.

If you're new to the exercise program, MaryBeth Pappas Baun, M.Ed., author of "Fantastic Water Workouts" recommends you begin gradually with five minutes of slow walking in waist-deep water. Over several weeks, gradually raise your speed and build up to at least 20 minutes per session.

While you don't have to have special equipment to water walk, the following items are useful:

  • Water shoes protect your feet and give you more grip.
  • Webbed gloves provide more resistance for your arm movements.
  • Flotation belts stabilize you and keep you afloat for deep water walking, where your feet don't touch the ground.

How to Water Walk

  • Stand in waist-deep water with your abdominal muscles firm, tailbone pointed toward the floor, buttocks tucked somewhat to brace your spine in position, shoulders back, and chest lifted (neutral position). Walking in chest-deep water provides more resistance and a more strenuous workout.
  • Walk as you would on land, placing your heel down first and following through with the ball of your foot. Don't walk on your tiptoes. Keep your back straight and stomach muscles taut.
  • Walk forward eight steps, then back four steps to tone different muscle groups.
  • Push relatively straight arms forward and back at your sides as you walk. Turn your hands each time so that the palms press against the water.
  • Use your arms in opposition to your legs: When you step forward with your right leg, bring your left arm forward, and vice versa.


  • Lifting your knees higher will increase the intensity of the exercise.
  • Walk forward and backward with short steps, long steps, average steps, or step kicks.
  • Move in a pattern of a circle or square. Be sure to go in both directions to balance the demands on your body.
  • When you are ready to increase intensity, stride by taking very large, controlled steps or bound by pushing off with your back foot to bounce up off the pool floor between strides.

More Tips

  • As with any aerobic exercise, start with a mild warm-up and finish with a cool-down. Stretching after you are warmed up is easy in water.
  • Drink plenty of fluid: without it, you are likely to become dehydrated even though you’re surrounded by water.
  • If you're outside, remember to wear sunscreen!
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