How deep should the water be for water walking?Ideal Depth Explained

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  31.01.2023
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Water walking is the perfect low-impact exercise. IF you do it right that is. But how deep should the water be for it to be effective?

The water depth should be deep enough to cover at least your hips. This allows you to use both your arms and legs for water walking so you can get a good exercise and improve your cardiovascular health and strength. For rigorous training, the water should be at least chest-high.

In this article, I’ll discuss everything you need to know about choosing the right water-depth for your perfect water walking workout.

How deep should the water be for water walking

What’s the Perfect Pool Depth for Water Walking?

Shallow-Water Classes

If you’re looking for the perfect pool depth for your aquatic exercise class, the Aquatic Exercise Association (AEA) recommends pools that range from 3 to 5 feet deep. That’s just the right depth to accommodate all heights and let you do some moves with your feet off the bottom. Plus, it’s shallow enough to support 80 to 90 percent of your body weight, so you won’t feel like you’re sinking. And if the pool has a gradual slope on the bottom, you’ll be able to move around without stressing your muscles.

Deep-Water Classes

If you’re looking to take a deep-water class, you’ll want to find a pool that’s at least 6.5 feet deep. That way, you can float vertically without any weight bearing. And if you need a little extra help staying afloat, you can always grab a flotation device.

The Perfect Pool for Aquatic Exercise

So what’s the perfect pool for aquatic exercise? Well, it all depends on the class you’re taking. For shallow-water classes, you’ll want a pool that’s between 3 and 5 feet deep. And for deep-water classes, you’ll want a pool that’s at least 6.5 feet deep. And if you can find a pool with a gradual slope on the bottom, you’ll be able to move around without stressing your muscles. So get out there and find the perfect pool for your aquatic exercise class!

Getting Your Feet Wet: How to Walk in Water

Start Slow

If you’re looking to take a dip into the world of water walking, start off by getting your feet wet in some waist-level water. Make sure you keep your core and back muscles engaged, your back straight and lengthened, your shoulders back, your chin up, and your ears over your shoulders. As you walk, keep your torso upright and don’t lean too far forward or to either side. Press into your heel first before rolling your weight onto your toes and swing your arms as you go.

Dive In

Once you’re comfortable with the basics, it’s time to take the plunge into deeper water. Start off with a leisurely stroll, gradually increasing your speed as you go. And don’t forget to have fun! After all, water walking is the perfect way to get your feet wet without getting your hair wet.

Understanding the Intensity of Water-Based Exercise

The Science Behind It

It’s no secret that getting your heart rate up in the pool is a bit different than on land. Exercise scientists have been trying to figure out exactly how different for a while now, but it turns out that the answer is a bit more complicated than they thought. It seems that the amount of difference varies from person to person, and previous calculations were way off.

So what factors are at play here? Well, there’s gravity, water temperature, partial pressure, and reduced body mass, all of which can affect your heart rate when you’re in the water. And, of course, your age and fitness level also play a role. The deeper you go, the more pronounced the difference becomes.

How to Measure Intensity

If you’re looking to get a better idea of how hard you’re working in the pool, you should forget about heart rate and instead use the Borg scale of perceived exertion, which rates your work level from 6 to 20. Or, if you want something a bit simpler, there’s the modified scale of 1 to 10.

So What’s the Bottom Line?

Bottom line: if you’re doing deep-water aerobics, you may be working harder than your heart rate is letting on. So don’t rely on it to tell you how hard you’re working – use the Borg or modified scale instead.

Understanding Music Tempo for Water Aerobics

Shallow Water Classes

If you’re looking to get your groove on in the shallow end, the Aquatic Exercise Association recommends you pick music with a tempo of 125 to 150 beats per minute. That’s the equivalent of a brisk walk, so you can think of it as a poolside stroll.

Deep Water Classes

For those of you who like to get your feet wet, the AEA suggests a tempo of 100 to 125 beats per minute. That’s the equivalent of a slow jog, so you can think of it as a leisurely lap.

A Word of Caution

Keep in mind that when you’re submerged, your reaction time is a bit slower. So, when you’re bopping around in the pool, you’ll be moving at half the tempo of the music. So, if you’re looking to get your groove on, you may want to pick a tune with a slightly slower beat.

Equipment for a Fun and Safe Aquatic Workout

Floating with Style

When you’re ready to take the plunge and get your feet wet with a deep-water class, make sure you look the part! Attach a flotation vest or belt to your torso and you’ll be ready to rock the pool. If you’re a more advanced deep-water exerciser, you can take it up a notch with ankle cuffs. Don’t worry about accidentally letting go of your buoyancy equipment – just attach it to your body and you’re good to go!

Resistance is Futile

Whether you’re in deep or shallow water, you can use hand-held buoyancy equipment to provide resistance for upper-body exercises. Talk about a workout, wow this water walking is great!

Plus, if you’re diabetic, pregnant, obese, or have musculoskeletal disorders, you might want to consider aquatic shoes for your shallow-water classes. And don’t forget your goggles if you plan on submerging your head – you don’t want to miss a thing!

The Fun Stuff

Let’s be honest – the best part of aquatic exercise is the fun stuff! Here are some of our favorite accessories to make your aquatic workout even more enjoyable:

  • A giant foam noodle
  • A bright and colorful kickboard
  • A waterproof Bluetooth speaker
  • A pair of fun and funky goggles
  • A stylish swim cap


When it comes to the depth of the water, the Aquatic Exercise Association recommends pools that range from 3 to 5 feet for shallow-water classes and 6.5 feet for deep-water classes.

And don’t forget the most important rule: HAVE FUN! So don’t be afraid to take the plunge and WORK THAT WATER!

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Kauai Surf Report is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new sports with everything surfing at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2019 to help loyal readers with surfing and water sporting tips.