Does Water Aerobics Make You Sore? (Solved!)


Whether you love being in the water, are crazy about fitness, or you’re just looking for better overall health and longevity, then water aerobics might be right up your alley. Water aerobics may not seem that aggressive, but this activity can definitely leave you feeling sore when you first start.

First-timers should expect to feel sore for up to a few days after their initial water aerobics workouts since their bodies are not yet accustomed to the stimuli presented by these exercises. This soreness will gradually lessen, however, as your body adapts to these water aerobics workouts.

With the results of controlled studies and professional opinion, the consensus is quite clear and consistent that there isn’t much to lose by adding water aerobics to a new workout routine or an existing one. Continue reading to see what this “good hurt” is, what it means, and why we get it with bouts of exercise.

Why Soreness After Water Aerobics is Normal for First-Timers

When we partake in new physical activities, regardless of what it is, we might likely wake up the next day or the next few days having some muscle soreness.

But why does this happen? Will this happen all the time?

With any new change in your physical regimen, your body is going to have to adjust. Maybe it’s going from no activity to walking, playing pick-up basketball after not playing for a long time, or just starting your water aerobics career. Being sore is normal, especially as you begin working muscles that you probably weren’t working before.

When it comes to water aerobics, your entire body is fighting a constant resistance for the duration of the whole workout; it doesn’t stop until you get out of the water. This can lead to some expected soreness after. 

In contrast, with weight training, the resistance is only applied to the muscles being asked to do work. For example, doing a bicep curl is working the bicep. Doing a bicep curl is not going to help you do a heavier squat. Water aerobics is a very different workout style, so those new to the activity will experience some initial muscle soreness. 

Does the Soreness from Water Aerobics Diminish Over Time?

No matter how “good for you” a particular exercise routine might be, nobody is going to want to stick to something that makes them feel miserable after every single workout. If you leave feeling the same after each visit, you won’t perceive any progress.

Soreness from water aerobics will diminish over time. This is because your body will adjust to this type of exercise, and you will experience less soreness even with gradual increases in frequency, duration, and intensity.

As you continue to do water aerobics and work all different types of muscles and areas throughout your body, they will get used to what you’re asking them to do. As a result, you will go from being sore to feeling great—and even refreshed—after finishing your exercise. 

When you’re first starting, it might be wise to take a day or two off in between your sessions. After getting acclimated, it is still okay to go back to class even if you’re a little bit sore, but you’ll want to warm up a little extra before doing anything too strenuous. Listen to your body because that will be the best indicator of how hard and how soon you should push it.

It’s important to be patient as you go through this adjustment period since it will take time for your body to adapt. If you’re too anxious to reach the point where soreness isn’t a major factor anymore, you may lose sight of the bigger picture and quit water aerobics outright. It’s best to enjoy every step of your fitness journey instead of getting too caught up in the destination.

Factors that Increase Soreness After Water Aerobics Workouts

The leading factor in your soreness after water aerobics is the strain on your muscles. If you’re a very keen observer, you may have noticed that this muscular strain doesn’t manifest as soreness immediately after your workout. Typically, you won’t feel sore until the next day or even the day after that.

This phenomenon is more commonly referred to as delayed onset muscle soreness, otherwise known as “DOMS” (source). DOMS has been the subject of many scientific studies. All of which have come to the same fundamental conclusion as to why DOMS occurs:

Muscle was broken down, causing tears in fibers that need to repair.

It is completely normal for your muscle to experience microscopic tears in response to exercise and experience soreness afterward. Although muscular strain is the underlying causation factor behind DOMS, a few other factors can contribute to the magnitude of this effect.

The most prominent of these factors are discussed further below.

Workout Frequency

Starting a new workout routine can be overwhelming and sometimes leaves you feeling unsure about the next step. You may be uncertain of things like how often you should work out, whether you can work out on consecutive days, and when the appropriate time is to take a rest day.

If you’re new to water aerobics and do it frequently, you will likely experience more soreness than someone who has participated in the activity for years. With that said, it’s wise to take it easy when starting and take the next day off. If you’re only a little sore, you can get away with going for a walk or stretching the next day.

Regardless if you’ve only done water aerobics for a couple of days or months, you should always listen to your body. If you’re really sore, don’t push yourself.  

How Often Should You Do Water Aerobics?

A study done in 2018 showed the positive effects water aerobics could have on your overall health (source). They took 15 individuals ranging between ages 14 and 52 and had them perform 45 minutes of water aerobics twice a week for 12 weeks. At this frequency, there were a handful of benefits to doing routine exercise in the water:

  • better body composition
  • healthier blood pressure levels
  • increased explosive strength 

This research offers strong evidence that participating in water aerobics two times per week is a great starting point. Not only does it minimize soreness, but it’s also very manageable to work into a busy schedule. 

Workout Intensity

As hard as you can all the time. Right? Not necessarily, especially for those just starting out. Too intense of a workout, and you’ll end up really feeling it the next day. Unfortunately, this may end up doing more harm than good because you’re more likely to end up skipping out on subsequent water aerobics sessions.

Instead, start at a level that’s comfortable—but where you still feel your body doing work. Although varying intensities do help achieve desired results, it’s best to start a little more moderate to get a grip on where your fitness level is.

With this approach, you can ease into your new fitness regimen and stay consistent, rather than constant cycling between being on again and off again. At the end of the day, consistency is king when it comes to exercise.

The Mayo Clinic and the American Heart Association determined varying intensity levels based on a percentage of your maximum heart rate (source):

  • moderate: about 50-70% max heart rate
  • rigorous: about 70-85% max heart rate

After spending enough time with consistent water aerobics, you will be able to tell how hard you’re pushing yourself. You’ll be able to gauge when you could push it a little more and days when you should just move to recover. 

The nice thing about water aerobics is that it’s low-impact, making it much easier on your joints. In fact, water aerobics is so low-impact that healthcare physicians recommend it for those with psoriatic arthritis (source). Due to this fact, you’ll probably be able to increase intensity faster than other forms of physical activity—and reduce the level of soreness you feel with time. 

Workout Length

So you have a good starting point for how many days per week you should workout and a couple of different ways to gauge your intensity level—but how long should you work out for? 

Sometimes people say that they work out for two to three hours in a single day. However, unless you’re taking part in long endurance training, rarely should you ever need that long of a workout to achieve the results you’re looking for.

More often than not, working out for two to three hours will only cause you to feel sorer than you anticipated. As aforementioned, such excess soreness is likely to derail your workout consistency.

On the other hand, some will claim they can “blast” fat in only thirty minutes with water aerobics. This may be effective for some, but not everyone can yield the same health benefits with this minimal time in the water.

The ideal time length of a water aerobics workout ranges from 45 minutes to an hour. This is because you need to give your body time to warm up, do enough work to elicit change, and then cool down and stretch—all essential parts of any workout routine. Still, water aerobics has been shown to provide the best results when practiced in just under an hour.

Sources: 1 2 3 4

Austin Carmody

I am the owner of HydroPursuit. I enjoy kicking back and getting out on the water as much as I can in my free time.

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