Aqua Jogging – A Cooling Buoyant Workout

Ever wished to have all the feel-good benefits of a good workout without the sweat and without your body complaining afterwards?

Ever considered running … in the pool?

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What is Aqua Jogging?

In a nutshell, it’s jogging or even running in deep water, usually in a swimming pool with all the benefits running on land would give you: a good cardiovascular workout and a boost of your fitness. All of that without risking to become a victim of stress injuries resulting from running on pavement.

Unlike running on land, moving in water reduces the risk of injury practically to zero. This opens up great opportunities to get moving even when you are too uncomfortable on land to do so.

Aqua jogging offers huge benefits for pregnant women, injured or healthy amateur and high-performance athletes and people wanting to shed pounds.

Running in water is like having a little support team around you.

Water Buddy No 1: Buoyancy

Water jogging makes use of the water’s natural buoyancy and resistance. Buoyancy is the upward force that decreases your weight in water depending on how deeply immersed you are.

A person standing in water up to his hips will only weigh half of his weight on land. In deep water, this is reduced even more. With just your head above water, your weight will go down to a featherweight of just 10 to 20 percent of what you usually see on the scales.

Example: A person weighing 180 pounds will be only 18 to 36 pounds when in water with the head sticking out, i.e. when standing or walking in deep water.

Every step, be it walking or jogging or running in water will have much, much less impact on the musculoskeletal system, avoiding the stressful impact of exercising on land.

When not touching the floor there is no weight for your body to bear and no shock to absorb and transmit which is why a pool or lake is perfect for recovery and injury prevention, for people of all fitness levels.

Interestingly, buoyancy also allows an increased range of movement benefiting better joint mobility and flexibility.

Still not sure? 

Think about this: gravity pulls as much on your blood as on your whole body, constantly driving everything down to your feet.

When the gravity is reduced in water buoyancy gives the blood a lift on its way back to your heart. Your heart needs to do less work and the heart rate is comparatively lower during exercise. In other words, the same effort and workout but less strenuous for your cardiovascular system.

If buoyancy makes everything easy how can water jogging be useful to increase your fitness level?

Water buddy no 2: high resistance

You will not get fitter – if you just float. But as soon as you start moving you’ll feel the resistance of the water. The harder you push against the water horizontally or downwards the more effort it takes.

Using that resistance to build up endurance, strength and more flexibility without the risk of injury works at every fitness level. Every person can benefit from this kind of no-impact high resistance training, from rehabilitation to professional athletes.

Water Buddy No 3: it’s cooling!

It seems obvious, but the cooling effect of water can make a big difference between enduring and enjoying a workout. You can simply go for longer without feeling you are about to overheat and explode.

Being in the water is very soothing, calming and relaxing!

Is it for you?

With all three buddies at your side what’s not to like?

Well, let’s be honest: This is not for you if you worry about what other people might think of you. Depending on your technique you will either look like a paddling duck who lost her ducklings or like someone putting way too much effort gaining way too little speed.

If you go to a public pool be mindful of other swimmers. You will be the slow snail in the pool. Choose your pool time when there is open swimming without lanes and fast swimmers.

This is paramount for you to be able to do your quiet exercise without getting into anyone’s way.

HOWEVER, if you don’t mind all of that you could give your body a great workout, increase your endurance and strength without putting a strain on your body. It is, therefore, no surprise that many people feel attracted to water jogging for a variety of reasons.

On one end of the spectrum are people, young and old,  looking for a gentle, comfortable and safe way to lose weight and increase their fitness level or to recover from an injury or surgery.

Pregnant women love taking the weight off their feet this way as much as anyone suffering from arthritis or back pain.

Endurance athletes, especially runners start considering water jogging when running has become uncomfortable due to injury.

However, jogging in water could be more than just a phase in times of discomfort. Some serious runners integrate weekly workouts into their training knowing that a workout in water offers several benefits.

Besides adding a bit of variety people also find pool running better in the cool-down phase compared to cooling down on a treadmill. You could also do exercises to safely increase your flexibility.

How do you water jog?

Everybody remembers how hard it is to run even when only halfway immersed in water. It usually doesn’t take long and balance is lost and you topple over.

The deeper the water the bigger the challenge to stay upright when trying to jog forward.

If you just want to see whether you like aqua jogging it’s best to wrap a pool noodle halfway around your chest and hold it under your armpits or use another buoyancy device to keep you upright.

Some pools even have an aqua jogging belt for you to borrow. If you are in for several sessions it’s worth buying your own, they are not that expensive.

Once equipped with a floating piece move to the deep end of the pool so your feet don’t touch the floor. Just like running on land there are several ways to run, from jogging to faster run to sprinting.

What’s the best technique?

It will take a little time of trial and error to get the most momentum but once you figured it out you’ll find it’s well worth it.

Here are 6 technique tips to get going quickly:

  • Move to the deep end of the pool so your feet don’t touch the floor
  • Keep your upper body upright, really vertical with your shoulders above your hips. Ideally, have someone observe you because quite often our perception of how vertical you are is not right and most people tend to lean forward.
  • Move your hands as if you are running on land, a light fist or pointing your fingers slightly upwards will help you to keep your shoulders relaxed.
  • Exaggerate your strides with your knee higher and foot stretching forward more coupled with a longer back push of the trail leg than you would do on land.
  • For general fitness get a waterproof mp3 player or find a friend to keep you company
  • For a more ambitious workout, it’s best to do intervals, alternating between full out stomping and arm movements and shorter, relaxed movements. It’s a good idea to use and slightly adapt (shorter recovery breaks) your normal interval running practice.

Do you need extra equipment?

Do you need a water jogging belt, noodle or aqua jogging shoes?

A buoyancy aid to keep your head safely (and conveniently) above water is a must so you can focus on your movements underwater. A belt is about $13 to $40 but makes water jogging really more comfortable.

Shoes, dumbbell-shaped floats or even gloves are optional for when you want to get really serious and increase the resistance.

How do you know you’re doing it right?

You should notice that you breathe quicker which means your heart rate has gone up. How much depends on your level of fitness and effort you put in.

After the session, when stretching you very likely feel your muscles’ response to the work they put in. And yet, you will feel great just like after a workout on land only without the aches and pains from all the absorbed shocks when exercising on solid ground.

In addition, many people notice how the water exercise leaves them happily relaxed, energized and satisfied. And if you ever get bored of aqua jogging, there are more ways to explore.

Ever heard of aquacizing, aqua Zumba or even aqua biking?

Those are similar but slightly different types of water exercise you can enjoy, too!

Your comments are welcome!

  1. I’m currently 27 weeks pregnant and kind of a fitness fanatic so this is a great workout idea as I get closer to d-day! I love getting a good workout in and being in the water helps us pregnant gals not feel so heavy.. So thanks for the great ideas!

  2. Thanks for the very specific article. I have always loved swimming for exercise as well as entertainment. This gives me incentive to get more done while there! Keep the great articles coming!

  3. I own a pair of water shoes that are made for hiking, but I think I would look pretty silly if I jumped into a pool with them on. Are there specialized water shoes available for these types of exercise?

    • Hi Eric, there are two schools of thought on aqua jogging. The original idea is to float and “run” in deep water and NOT touch the bottom of the pool at all. No shoes required unless you want to increase the resistance with Aqua Runners, where you put on a “shoe” made of a buoyant foam material, the same you’d find on a floatation aid.
      The second, “watered down” 🙂 school promotes running in water and pushing yourself off the floor in which case, yes, aqua shoes are a must to have enough traction and not slip. As long as your water shoes provide a good grip on a pool floor you should be fine. Of course, the second type of running means more pressure on joints compared to the deep water running. Not so good for aching limbs but could be a great resistance workout for healthy athletes.

  4. I have been struggling with jogging recently, pounding the pavements is not great for my old bones, so this sounds like a great alternative, you have some really helpful advice here. I did aqua-aerobics when I was pregnant, and loved the freedom to be able to move in the water

  5. I really want to try this. We are getting a pool soon and this is something I hope to do regularly. Thanks for the tips.

  6. Thanks for the thorough coverage aqua jogging. I’ve actually noticed people doing it at our small condo pool and wasn’t sure about it – I am definitely going to give it a try now!

  7. Hi – can you get an aqua jogging belt in any sports shop? It’s a fantastic idea, I had thought of them before as a flotation aid, but not that they help keep you upright while you are exercising.

    • Hi D Duffy,
      thank you for your question. That’s right, it’s about keeping upright as well as your head above water. Any sports shop that does swimming gear usually stocks floatation aids to help you learn to swim. Some of those are just as suitable for aquajogging. Especially the type where most of the buoyant pads are on the back. The key is to be able to pull your knees up high allowing you to make big, long and high “steps” in water.

  8. Hi! This seems like a really fun and different way to get a good workout. I guess the only downside is that you’re not building up your bones. That comes from weight-bearing exercise. So maybe combining it with other forms of exercise would be best. Is there really such a thing as aquazumba?

  9. This seems like a much better alternative to running! As I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed how the impact of running affects my knees, shins, and even shoulders. It’s good to know there are other effective exercises out there. Thanks!

  10. Wow, aqua jogging, I had no idea about exaggerating my strides, thanks for this useful tip and I had thought of using a buoyancy belt. It makes sense that focusing on movements would increase the effectiveness.


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