With origins being traced back to India, water polo has evolved greatly since its original inception and has influences of equestrian polo, rugby and soccer. Now a celebrated Olympic sport, water polo is not only rich in tradition but also in health benefits. This blog post will look at the origins and development of water polo, water polo in the Olympics and the health/physical benefits of participating in the sport.

Water polo  at the Carleton University pool


Water polo can be traced back to 17th Century India where British army officers experimented with a water based polo or “pulu” game. At this point players rode floating barrels representing horses as in equestrian polo and swung sticks at the ball towards a goal. This is what ultimately gave birth to the name water ‘polo’.

Later water polo made its way to Europe, where the rules developed to resemble a more rugby like feel. Players would attempt to carry the ball to the opposition’s side, with aggressive tackling accepted during this process. It wasn’t until 1870 that the London Swimming Club adopted the game, creating the first set of rules designed for the swimming pool. In 1880, the game of water polo saw drastic rule changes, adapting more soccer like qualities. The game thus moved away from a more aggressive style game to that of technique and skill, and had the addition of a ten by three foot net at both ends.

Water Polo in the Olympics

Water polo was first seen at the Olympics during the Paris Games in 1900. Great Britain was the inaugural winner of the first Gold Medal in water polo. Although the sport was held out of the 1904 Summer Games it has since been in every Summer Olympics. Women’s water polo made its way into the Olympic Games in 2000 during the Sydney Games, with Australia taking the first Gold Medal.

Health and Physical Benefits

Water fitness and athletics traditionally offer its participants a vast amount of physical benefits. The added resistance the water offers kicks every workout up a notch, providing both an aerobic and anaerobic workout in the process. Below are the health and physical benefits of participating in water polo:

  • Increased Endurance- Water polo players can swim upwards of 5 kilometers in a game
  • Weight Loss- Players can burn up to 700 calories per one hour of play
  • Improved Cardiovascular Health
  • Improved Strength
  • Easy on Joints- The water act as a cushion on joints and muscles, preventing injury and general aches and pains associated with traditional fitness
  • Increased Flexibility
  • Body Toning

In operation since 1980, the Ravens Co-Ed Summer Water Polo League offers athletes of all levels a chance to get in shape and have fun this summer. Not only a great way to cool off in the heat but also an excellent way to try something new, gain new skills and meet new people.

Written by Josh Skrupskas

Monday, May 26, 2014 in
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