skip to content

An aquatic environment provides a safe and relaxed environment for individuals who have osteoporosis. It is important for individuals to become involved in exercise that provides both weight-bearing and resistance exercises (National Osteoporosis Foundation, 1998). These exercises can occur in an aquatic setting.

A weight-bearing, water-based exercise program can allow an individual an opportunity to improve levels of functional fitness (flexibility, coordination, agility, strength/endurance, and cardiorespiratory endurance) (Bravo, Gauthier, Roy, Payette, & Gaulin, 1997). However, such exercises have not shown the ability to increase bone mass. Nevertheless, by increasing functional fitness, they can help prevent falls, which is one of the leading causes of bone fractures in individuals with osteoporosis. Some examples of weight-bearing exercises in the water include:

  • walking (forward, backward, side stepping, crossover stepping, stiff leg, lunge walking, marching, and jogging),
  • jumping (straight jumps, tuck jumps, jumping jacks),
  • cross-country ski movement.

The shallower the water, the greater the impact imposed on the bones.

Resistance exercises can be performed in the water using a variety of buoyant objects such as floating barbells, flutter boards, pull buoys, and "noodles" (long noodle-like piece of foam). These objects can be pushed down in the water in a variety of ways to perform exercises for various muscle groups.

Objects such as webbed gloves, hand paddles, and fins also increase the resistance on the muscles. Using surgical tubing in the water to create resistance is another source that can enhance muscular development (Lepore, Gayle, & Stevens, 1998).

Swimming is an activity that does not require weight bearing. It can however, increase an individualís cardiovascular endurance, muscular endurance, and overall fitness level.

It is necessary that an individual with osteoporosis consult with a physician, adapted physical activity consultant, physical therapist, or occupational therapist before beginning an aquatic-based exercise program. The specialists would be able to design a program that would meet individual needs based on an individualís physical abilities.


Bravo, G., Gauthier, P., Roy, P.M., Payette, H., & Gaulin, P. (1997). A weight-bearing, water-based exercise program for osteopenic women: its impact on bone, functional fitness, and well-being. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 78(12), 1375-80.

Lepore, M., Gayle, G. W., & Stevens, S. (1998). Adapted Aquatics Programming: A Professional Guide. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics

page last updated 1/3/2017 1:00 PM