March 09, 2022 11 min read

Nearly one in five Australians experience foot pain, and many stop exercise and sports due to the pain and discomfort. However, exercising effectively can provide huge benefits. If you suffer from foot, ankle or lower limb pain, you may need just to exercise differently.

With its unique ability to offer low-impact yet effective exercise, water cycling is exceptionally beneficial for individuals grappling with lower limb, foot or ankle pain. It also makes it an ideal choice for those leading a sedentary lifestyle due to discomfort. The buoyancy of water significantly reduces the pressure on the bones, joints and muscles, allowing for a wider range of motion and facilitating exercise with minimal to no pain.


Across ages and demographics, numerous conditions of the feet and legs may be better managed with aquatic exercises due to the unique properties of water, relative density, buoyancy, hydrostatic pressure, viscosity, cohesion, and moment of force.

Water cycling offers a therapeutic alternative, promoting strength, flexibility, and improved circulation in the affected areas and without the pressure. Moreover, the resistance provided by water enhances muscle toning and endurance, contributing to overall leg and foot health. 

Aqua cycling offers a gentle yet effective way to get moving for individuals who are sedentary or have trouble exercising due to lower limb pain. The water's buoyancy supports the body, minimising the impact on painful joints and tissues. This makes it possible for people with conditions like plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, shin splints, stress fractures, osteoarthritis, and peripheral neuropathy to engage in physical activity without exacerbating their symptoms.

Aqua cycling is a rehabilitative exercise for individuals with foot and leg injuries. Its low-impact nature ensures a safe workout environment, reducing the risk of further injury, while the water’s resistance challenges the muscles, aiding in quicker recovery and strength building.


Incorporating water-based exercises like water cycling into training routines is an excellent strategy for injury prevention and cross-training, ensuring athletes maintain peak performance while mitigating the risk of overuse injuries.

If an athlete or active individual suffers from an ankle or foot injury, maintaining and improving range of motion is paramount for a successful recovery. Research suggests stationary biking is a controlled way to aid dorsiflexion and plantar flexion (flexing and pointing the foot), which helps with flexibility and healing. Of course, consistent aqua cycling also helps maintain cardiovascular fitness in injured individuals.

For athletes, water cycling is an excellent form of cross-training to prevent lower limb injury in the first place. Many lower limb injuries and ailments are related to overuse. The feet and legs endure a lot of stress from gravity, compounded by supporting the body's weight. Especially in sports involving a lot of running and jumping, these body parts are susceptible to wear and tear.

It can also assist in helping in building leg strength. The Australian Ballet and the national soccer team, the Socceroos, have recently started adding water cycling into their training programs. Strong legs are helpful in any sport, but they’re particularly important in sports that include running, jumping or kicking, like soccer, gymnastics, basketball, track and field and swimming. Sports that require lower body strength include a variety of individual and team sports, some of which require special training, while others are open for you to begin playing at almost any stage of your life.


There are a number of potential causes of foot and leg pain, and these causes can vary throughout the lifespan. For example, middle-aged people with foot pain often struggle with plantar heal pain, and older adults are more likely to experience foot pain from osteoarthritis in the big toe and ankle joints.

Common culprits of foot and leg pain are:


A side effect of diabetes is peripheral neuropathy, which is nerve damage that can lead to a tingling or painful sensation in the peripherals–the hands and feet.  

Poor Blood Flow

Low blood flow to the feet can cause tingling, pain, numbness, swelling, and cramps.

Foot & Ankle Conditions

Conditions like plantar fasciitis, osteoarthritis, Achilles tendonitis, shin splints, peripheral neuropathy, stress fractures, and edema can contribute to pain in the lower limbs.

Foot & Ankle Injury

Foot and ankle injuries are very common. Whether from participating in a sport, everyday wear and tear, or overuse, many people will develop a foot or ankle injury. Pain can come on suddenly or gradually and inhibit school, work and other daily activities.

Sedentary Lifestyle

In today’s modern society, many of us aren’t moving as much as we need to. Even those who want to be more active may work a desk job or spend more time inactive than they’d prefer. A sedentary lifestyle is a risk factor for several chronic diseases and conditions, but it can also have negative effects on our lower body parts like the legs and feet.

A lack of movement reduces circulation or blood flow. As mentioned above, a lack of circulation may contribute to swelling. Swelling is commonly paired with pain and stiffness, making an individual reluctant to exercise. Lack of physical activity will also transition to a lack of muscle strength, balance, and range of motion. The longer inactivity continues, the harder it is for the body to get active once more. After all, Newton’s law of inertia is clear when it states an object at rest resists changes in a state of motion, so it tends to stay at rest.


When done correctly and under guidance, water cycling can be a powerful tool in managing and reducing lower limb pain, stiffness, and swelling. It promotes overall joint and muscle health, improves both blood flow and circulation, and has numerous additional benefits that contribute to the well-being of the lower limbs.


Regular aqua cycling sessions help prevent the onset of lower limb conditions and act as an excellent form of cross-training. It complements high-impact sports by providing a balanced workout that strengthens the muscles without putting additional stress on the joints.


Water provides a cushioning effect, making aqua cycling an ideal choice for individuals with joint issues, arthritis, or those recovering from leg or foot injuries. The reduced impact protects the joints and minimises the risk of further injury.


Prolonged bouts of inactivity and lower limb swelling go hand in hand, or do I dare say foot in foot? This is why it’s common for peoples’ ankles and lower legs to swell after a long flight; it’s mainly because they were required to sit with their legs hanging below without much other movement for an extended period.

The hydrostatic pressure of the water promotes blood flow and reduces swelling in the legs and feet. This is particularly beneficial for individuals with varicose veins, peripheral artery disease, or those prone to leg cramps.

Water’s resistance exerts this pressure on the body and promotes healing after an injury due to increased blood flow to the injury site. 


The water's resistance helps gently stretch the muscles and joints, improving flexibility and range of motion. This is crucial for maintaining healthy feet and legs, especially as we age.


Aqua cycling effectively targets and engages major muscle groups in the legs, such as the quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, and calves, providing a comprehensive lower-body workout. The innate resistance of the water amplifies the challenge, encouraging the development of stronger, more toned muscles.

This enhanced muscle engagement contributes to improved strength and tone and plays a crucial role in building resilient muscular structures capable of withstanding the demands of high-impact sports. Additionally, this exercise promotes balance and stability, essential for optimal performance in various physical activities.


As a cardiovascular exercise, aqua cycling helps to burn calories, promote weight loss, and improve overall heart health. The cardiovascular nature of cycling also enhances endurance, making everyday activities easier on the feet and legs.

Furthermore, obesity and overweight are recurring risk factors for many conditions that affect the feet and legs. More weight creates added pressure for these structures to support with every step. If water cycling helps get people moving, the individual will inevitably begin seeing benefits from a consistent exercise routine.



Plantar fasciitis is a relatively common condition where the ligament running along the foot's bottom becomes inflamed. Risk factors include excessive weight, high arch, overuse from running or standing for long periods, and a lack of physical activity.

One of the primary forms of management and treatment for plantar fasciitis is stretching to reduce tightness. Water therapy and water fitness modalities like water cycling can help with relaxing and stretching the feet to reduce stiffness and promote healing without putting significant impact on the feet and aggravating the condition.


The Achilles tendon is the largest and strongest tendon in the body. It also carries a lot of loads. Achilles tendinopathy or Achilles tendinosis is an overuse injury where stiffness and low flexibility are risk factors. Other risk factors include obesity and tight calves. Without proper treatment, tendonitis can lead to a rupture or tear that often requires surgical repair. It often presents with pain and stiffness around the Achilles tendon area, especially in the morning. It can actually be either exacerbated or relieved with physical activity.

The water environment allows for gentle movement, reducing the risk of further injury.

A case study of a female elite runner found her able to rehabilitate and return to sport faster from water therapy for Achilles tendinopathy. Case study results can’t be generalised, but they can highlight that the water removes the weight-bearing element while still providing resistance and is an ideal medium for sports rehabilitation.


Medial tibial stress syndrome, more commonly referred to as 'shin splints' is a condition that arises from continuous stress being placed upon the shin bone, often affecting athletes, runners, and active individuals. Those with specific foot structures, such as flat feet or high arches, find themselves at an increased risk of experiencing this painful condition.

Incorporating low-impact exercises such as aqua cycling into one’s routine can significantly aid in alleviating the repetitive stress placed on the shin bone. The buoyancy of water ensures a reduction in impact forces during exercise, allowing for a safe and effective workout that promotes strength and endurance without aggravating the shins. Aqua cycling thus emerges as a valuable tool in preventing and managing shin splints, fostering healthier lower leg function.


Stress fractures, characterised by small cracks in the bone rather than a complete break, are a common issue, particularly in weight-bearing foot bones. These injuries are especially prevalent among individuals with osteoporosis, a condition that weakens bones and makes them more susceptible to fractures.

Water exercise and aqua cycling emerge as beneficial and safe exercise alternatives for those dealing with stress fractures. The buoyancy of the water significantly reduces the impact and weight-bearing stress on the bones, allowing individuals to engage in physical activity without exacerbating their injuries.

Aquatic rehabilitation is an excellent option when it comes to healing from a fracture or stress fracture. Aqua cycling, in particular, combines the therapeutic qualities of water with the cardiovascular benefits of cycling, promoting blood circulation and aiding in the healing process.


There are various types of arthritis, but osteoarthritis (OA) is the most prevalent. It is known as the kind of arthritis that occurs from the “wear and tear” of a joint. The risk of developing OA increases with age, but it can affect anyone at any age.

Aqua cycling helps in maintaining joint mobility and reducing pain and stiffness. Much research supports the use of aquatic cycling for knee osteoarthritis prevention and management, however,  ankle osteoarthritis is another prominent form of the condition that can be managed with water cycling.


Neuropathies, which are caused by damage to the nerves connecting our brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body, can disrupt daily life and lessen a person’s ability to live independently and enjoy their usual activities.  Peripheral neuropathy affects the hands and feet and is a common side effect of chemotherapy treatment. When discussing the lower body and feet, this can greatly affect balance and stability.

Aqua cycling provides a safe and gentle way to maintain movement and improve circulation. The water also simultaneously encourages circulation to the extremities to improve function.


Aqua cycling is an excellent exercise option for managing edema, especially in the lower legs and feet due to gravity's influence and often seen in older adults and pregnant women. Edema, also known as fluid retention, dropsy, hydropsy and swelling, is the build-up of fluid in the body's tissue. It is a condition characterised by general swelling, while lymphedema is a chronic specific type resulting from improper lymphatic system functioning; it's important to note that while lymphedema can cause edema, not all edema is lymphedema.

Lower limb lymphedema is particularly associated with breast cancer treatment. Engaging in aqua cycling allows individuals to take advantage of the water's pressure, which encourages the movement of blood and lymph fluids, promoting greater circulation and lymphatic drainage and subsequently reducing swelling. The pressure the water provides during aqua cycling is even more substantial than that of a compression garment, eliminating the need to wear one while in the pool.

Though there isn’t direct research associating water cycling specifically with edema, aquatic therapy is considered a primary treatment. Pool cases we have witnessed has revealed that an Aqua Bike intensifies the beneficial properties of water and delivers even greater results than standard hydrotherapy without equipment with this condition.


The Hydrorider is made with appropriate biomechanics in mind and is adjustable to suit an aligned leg position to limit pain and provide maximum benefit. These aqua bikes are specially designed for water use, with a flywheel for scaled self powered resistance and a sturdy rust resistant framework. The water’s scalable resistance is one of the main reasons aquatic fitness is so effective for strength, cardiovascular fitness, and calorie burning. The equipment made for water ensures that you receive the intended benefits by facilitating the correct movement. The Hydrorider has two pedal options. The fitness pedal, standard on the Hydrorider Pro-fix  and Hydrorider Professional  models, is made for speed, flexibility and strength building. There is also an option to use a Hydrorider Shoeless pedal, which provides excellent stability and is good for those with foot and ankle pain or injury, limited mobility, age and rehabilitation purposes. The Hydrorider Easyline model comes with a shoeless pedal and is an excellent open for degenerative conditions that challenge stability and worsen over time, like Parkinsons'.


Aqua cycling stands out as both a a safe and beneficial exercise alternative for individuals grappling with ailments or injuries in the lower body. The aqua bike provides a controlled environment for cycling, significantly minimising the risk of falls—a crucial consideration for those with stability issues or weakness in their legs and feet.

Unlike many land-based exercises, aqua cycling is non-weight-bearing, meaning it does not put additional stress on already compromised joints or muscles. This ensures that participants can engage in a vigorous workout, reaping cardiovascular and muscle-strengthening benefits without exacerbating their existing conditions or risks.

Embracing aqua cycling as a regular activity aligns with a holistic prevention strategy, which considers the well-being of the entire body. By mitigating the risk of injury and promoting a safer exercise option, individuals with lower body conditions can maintain or even enhance their overall fitness, contributing to a more active, healthier lifestyle.

If you have any of the conditions mentioned above, always check with your doctor  before beginning a new exercise routine. 


Aqua cycling stands out as an excellent option for improving leg and foot health, with a range of benefits. Providing a supportive, low-impact, and enjoyable form of exercise encourages regular physical activity, leading to stronger, healthier legs and feet. This can result in improved mobility, reduced pain, and a better quality of life.

Individuals of all ages and health statuses can engage in physical activity that alleviates pain and enhances strength, flexibility, and circulation in the lower limbs.

From athletes seeking to prevent overuse injuries to older adults and those with chronic conditions seeking pain relief and improved mobility, aqua cycling is a versatile and accessible form of exercise. The buoyancy of water ensures a safe, supportive environment, reducing stress on joints and muscles, while the resistance it provides challenges the muscles, leading to improved tone, strength, and endurance.

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