Aquatic Training Benefits & Safety Guidelines

Oct 10, 2014 | by AIF

Water is a safe, cool and comfortable medium to exercise in, says Annette Chatterton, Australian Institute of Fitness SA/NT. Find out the other benefits for your clients!


Hydrotherapy has been promoted by the medical profession for years, and it is often recommended for rehabilitation, especially knee, hip, lower back and shoulder.

Water’s buoyancy reduces impact on all joints thus reducing the impact forces, stress and potential damage. At waist depth impact forces are reduced by 50%, at chest depth by 80%, and suspended in deep water there is no impact at all. Participant wear a buoyancy belt, aqua DB’s or a pool noodle.

Reducing Impact

Reducing impact is beneficial for overweight, obese, pregnant, and injured clients. Lower or no impact can also reduce stress on athletes’ joints enabling them to train more often without joint damage or pain. The foot strikes might actually increase, but without the impact the athlete can train safely for longer. Water moves, massaging the muscles and joints improving circulation, synovial fluid release and venous return. Thus higher intensity workouts can be maintained for longer.

Cardiac Clients

As venous return is assisted (Archimedes Principle), a cardiac client can train without increasing the heart rate or blood pressure dramatically. This is great for health improvements. An athlete can work at the same VO2 with a lower HR. Sometimes as much as 15bpm lower.


As circulation is improved by the massaging effect of the water, and pressure assisting blood flow, water is the ideal place for recovery. Cooler water however constricts blood flow and reduces inflammation. Alternating cool/warm water is proven to assist muscle recovery increasing the removal of toxins and metabolic wastes.

Water provides multi-directional isokinetic resistance. Thus all movements against water are “harder” than air. But movements upwards are assisted by buoyancy. Water is more viscous than air, and provides frictional resistance. As water moves eddies are created, also increasing muscle activation (esp stabilizers). The faster the limbs are moved through the water, the greater the resistance. With added surface area (paddles and kickboards etc.) and/or added buoyancy (DB’s and noodles) the workout can be even harder.

Core Activation

The constant balancing and stabilising of the body in water results in core and stabiliser activation. When the Centre of Gravity and the Centre of Buoyancy are out of alignment the core muscles work very hard to stop falling or floating.


Water provides an accommodating resistance. Thus there is no “sticking point”. Working across buoyancy removes the eccentric phase of motion. This double concentric motion promotes a balanced muscular workout without DOMS. This means more training, more often without the soreness.


One of the most obvious benefits of working in water is that it is cooling. This is refreshing in the Aussie summer, and relieving for the overweight, older clients (esp. post menopausal) and pregnant women. Core temp will remain fairly constant in water that is <30degrees. The pregnant woman’s heart rate remains lower than on land and the water supports her joints and the weight of the growing child, relieving her back stress and lordotic arch. Most swimming pools maintain water temp between 26 and 29degress.

Safety First

Safety requirements for aqua classes and personal training in the pool include:

  • life saving supervision
  • sun protection
  • emergency plans and procedures
  • correct participation/supervision ratios
  • appropriate safe equipment used as directed
  • recommended water temperatures
  • cleanliness and pool chemical levels adhered to

It is vital that an Aqua Instructor regularly update their First Aid and CPR training, but not necessary for them to have their Life Saving qualifications if Life Guards are present. If a pool is part of a Fitness Centre complex it is rare to employ a Life Guard, but other Fitness Coachs will be in the complex to assist in an emergency. Rescues and evacuations would be part of training.

The question then comes to mind of the increased risks of training clients in the ocean, dams, lakes and rivers. I am unaware of any written statements, but recommend following the guidelines above. Each of these environments have added risks and dangers. Even with my Life Saving qualifications and aquatic experience I only instruct aqua classes and train personal clients in supervised swimming



The Australian Institute of Fitness
The Australian Institute of Fitness (AIF) is the largest and longest established fitness training organisation in Australia, with dynamic training methods and expert course coaches nationwide - spanning fitness, massage and nutrition. The AIF qualifies more fitness professionals than any other provider in Australia, as well as offering a broad range of continuing education courses (CEC), upskilling resources and partnership programs for existing industry.

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Disclaimer: Where Certificate III in Fitness, Cert III/Cert 3, or Fitness Coach is mentioned, it refers to SIS30321 Certificate III in Fitness. Where Certificate IV in Fitness, Cert IV/Cert 4, or Personal Trainer is mentioned, it refers to SIS40221 Certificate IV in Fitness. Where Master Trainer Program™ is mentioned, it refers to Fitness Essentials and SIS40221 Certificate IV in Fitness. Where Master Trainer Plus+ Program™ is mentioned, it refers to SIS30321 Certificate III in Fitness and SIS40221 Certificate IV in Fitness. Where Certificate IV in Massage or Cert IV/Cert 4 is mentioned, it refers to HLT42021 Certificate IV in Massage Therapy. Where Diploma of Remedial Massage is mentioned, it refers to HLT52021 Diploma of Remedial Massage.