Step Exercises with Cardio

Starfish exercise. Photo by Stephen Frink

Considered a form of preventative medicine by the American College of Sports Medicine, exercise has a wide range of positive physical, mental and cognitive benefits. The following program should help keep you fit and healthy for your next dive. Use the modifications and challenges to suit your individual needs and fitness level. 

This timed program is designed to keep your heart rate elevated throughout the routine to strengthen your heart, lungs and muscles. After completing each exercise for one minute, perform 30 seconds of switch steps before moving to the next exercise. Try to complete two or three rounds of this routine.

Switch Steps

  1. Start with one foot slightly bent on the step and the other one directly behind you only a few inches away from the step. Keep most of your weight on your front foot, and use the back foot for balance.
  2. Keep your chest up throughout the exercise.
  3. Jump, switch feet in the air, and land on the other foot in the starting position.
  4. Repeat for 30 seconds after every exercise.

Modification: To minimize impact, do step-ups instead, stepping up with the right foot followed by the left foot and then lowering the right foot followed by left foot. Repeat, starting with your left foot.

Squat Lunge

  1. Start with one foot on the step and the other foot on the ground, with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  2. Squat as if you are sitting in a chair, keeping your chest up and your weight in your heels. 
  3. Return to standing position.
  4. Bring the leg that is on the ground to directly behind you while maintaining a wide stance.
  5. Drop your weight straight down into a lunge.
  6. Repeat for one minute on each side.

Modification: Only go down about 45 degrees instead of 90.
Challenge: Do two repetitions of one move with a jump in between before switching to the other move (squat, jump, squat, lunge, jump, lunge). When jumping, keep the squat or lunge position.

Side Hops

  1. Start with your hands on the step and both feet on the same side, with your legs bent in a crouching position.
  2. Lean forward, putting weight into your shoulders.
  3. Jump over the step, landing on the other side.
  4. Repeat for one minute.

Tip: Keep looking down at the step.
Modification: Step over with one foot at a time, starting with the foot closest to the step.
Challenges: Keep your feet together when you jump. Jump faster.

Dip Leg Up

  1. Sit on the ground with your back to your step.
  2. Place your hands on the edge of the step, with your fingertips facing your back. 
  3. Straighten your arms, and slightly bend your legs (a little past 90 degrees).
  4. Raise one leg, and slightly bend your arms to a 90-degree angle.
  5. Straighten your arms, keeping your leg raised the whole time.
  6. Repeat for one minute, and then switch to raising the other leg for one minute.

Tip: Go slow on the way up and down.
Modification: Bring your bottom leg closer to the step. Keep both feet on the ground.
Challenge: Hold at the bottom with your arms bent for three seconds before coming back up.


  1. Lie on your stomach on the step.
  2. Put your hands on the ground in front of you and your toes on the ground behind you.
  3. Your arms and legs should be open in a V shape.
  4. Raise your head as you slowly lift your arms and legs at the same time.
  5. Slowly lower them to the ground. Don’t slam your hands or toes on the ground.
  6. Repeat for one minute.

Tip: Look forward throughout the exercise.
Modification: Don’t lift your arms and legs as high.
Challenge: Keep your arms and legs raised for three seconds before lowering them.

NOTE: To avoid an increased risk of decompression sickness, DAN® recommends that divers avoid strenuous exercise for 24 hours after making a dive. During your annual physical exam or following any changes in your health status, consult your physician to ensure you have medical clearance to dive. 

© Alert Diver — Q3/Q4 2020