5 Water Workouts That Don’t Involve Swimming Laps

Jodi Helmer
by Jodi Helmer
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5 Water Workouts That Don’t Involve Swimming Laps

In the heat of the summer, trade traditional outdoor activities like running and biking for workouts that make a splash. Swimming torches calories, builds muscle and improves endurance but, let’s face it, swimming laps can be b-o-r-i-n-g.

“There are a lot more exciting water workouts,” admits Cris Dobrosielski, a certified strength and conditioning coach, owner of San Diego’s Monumental Results and author of “Going the Distance.”  

This summer, jump in and try these five water workouts — no laps required:


Balancing on a paddleboard and propelling yourself across the water engages all of your major muscle groups including the legs, core and upper body. Focusing on not falling in the water also improves balance.

Nikki Johnston Beaudoin, Paddle Into Fitness master trainer and owner/operator of Sea to Sky Fitness in Vancouver, British Columbia, believes SUP is as good for your mind as it is for your body. “Paddling can be very meditative, it can be a fantastic way to unplug and connect with nature,” she says. “Being out on the water early in the morning when it is calm and beautiful out can be a really magical experience.”

SUP is great for low-intensity recreation but it can also be an intense workout. For a real challenge, enter a SUP race!


Paddling a kayak is a great workout that emphasizes the core and upper body while building strength and stability.

Dobrosielski recommends it as a cross-training workout for runners. “It works parts of the body that tend to be underdeveloped in sports like running that predominantly engage the lower body,” he says.

You can kayak solo or join a group outing; paddling on flatwater (like a lake) is less intense than navigating whitewater or the ocean.


Although canoeing might seem like a slow sport, Dobrosielski notes, “You get to decide how intense to make it.”

Like SUP and kayaking, canoeing builds balance while working the upper body and core. Unlike other paddle sports that are typically done solo, navigating a canoe is almost always done with a partner.

Research shows that when you work out with a partner, you work out more often and burn more calories than exercising solo. Dobrosielski also believes working out with a partner can improve your relationship. “People who train together, stay together,” he says.


The popularity of SUP and yoga led to a hybrid sport: yoga on paddleboards. Doing poses like downward dog and tree is much more challenging when the board is bobbing on the water. It tests your balance and, according to Beaudoin, doing yoga on the water elevates your practice.

“Practicing SUP yoga can be a really great way of getting out of your head and into the present moment, connecting with the water beneath you and nature around you,” she says. “Savasana on a paddleboard is amazing, calming feeling.”



Water aerobics (in deep or shallow water) is a “magnificent” workout, according to Dobrosielski.

“There is a lot of value to having variety in your workout,” he says. “Your body will respond to a variety of movement patterns, giving you a really good fitness effect.”

Water aerobics are great if you’re recovering from an injury or have health conditions that necessitate low-impact workouts. Although Dobrosielski is a fan of water aerobics, he doesn’t recommend the in-pool calisthenics as your only exercise, noting that weight-bearing, land-based workouts are required to build bone density.

About the Author

Jodi Helmer
Jodi Helmer

Jodi Helmer writes about health and wellness for publications like WebMD, AARP, Shape, Woman’s Day, Arthritis Today and Costco Connection among others. She often comes up with the best story ideas while hiking with her rescue dogs. You can read Jodi’s work or follow her on Twitter @helmerjodi.


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