4 Water Exercises That Can Help Strengthen Your Spine

A man takes a water aerobics class.
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When we think of the word “exercise,” we often imagine someone jogging down the road or lifting weights in the gym. But if you suffer from chronic back pain or other spinal conditions, the thought of exercising on solid ground can make you cringe. The constant pressure on your joints and jarring motion as you run, jump or walk on pavement can make traditional exercise for some individuals not only painful, but impossible.

So why not take your workout to the pool? The buoyancy of the water decreases the amount of pressure on your bones and joints by supporting some of your body weight. Aquatic exercise is a great way to strengthen your muscles and improve your movement, function, balance and cardiovascular system. Here are a few simple exercises that you can do while you’re going for a dip in the pool:

  1. Water Walking: Stand with your weight evenly distributed on both feet. Take 10-20 steps forward, then 10-20 steps backward. You can add more intensity by increasing your speed. Be sure to engage your abdominal muscles and keep your spine straight. Repeat this for five minutes.

  2. Water Jogging: Stand with your weight evenly distributed on both feet. Begin jogging in place for 30 seconds, then slow down and walk in place for 30 seconds. Alternate between the two for five minutes. Remember to keep your spine straight and engage your abdominal and back muscles.
  3. Standing Knee Lift: Stand with your back against the pool wall and both feet flat on the floor. Shift all of your weight onto one leg and lift the opposite knee up until it is parallel with your hip. If you are able to, try straightening your knee so your leg is extended out in front of you. Repeat this with the other leg. Complete three sets of 10 on each side.
  4. One Leg Balance: Put all of your weight on one leg and raise the knee of the opposite leg to hip level. Take a pool noodle and place it under your lifted leg so it forms a “U” shape with your foot in the middle. Try to hold this pose for 30 seconds while engaging your core and back muscles. Perform one or two sets of five on each leg.

All of these exercises can be performed in waist-high or chest-high water. And remember that heated pools are a great alternative if you are suffering from chronic back and neck pain. The heat can help relax your aching muscles and make it easier for you to maneuver your body through the exercises.

The bottom line: staying active doesn’t have to mean long-distance running or intense weight-training. Aquatic exercise is just one of many alternatives that will safely provide you with similar health benefits. And by eating healthy, drinking plenty of water and exercising regularly, you will be well on your way to optimal spine health!

Remember to talk to you doctor before starting a new exercise. If you are experiencing back pain that keeps you from being active, contact Dr. Chetan Patel at the Spine Health Institute. He and his team can help you get back on your feet and back in the pool in no time.


Mulcahy, J. (n.d.). 10 Exercises To Do In The Pool. Retrieved from Move Forward PT.

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