Muscle oxygenation (MO) status is the dynamic balance between O2 utilization and O2 delivery. Low-impact high-intensity interval exercise MO responses in the exercise and recovery stage are still unclear. We compared the differences in MO and physiological parameters between high-intensity interval water-based exercise (WHIIE) and high-intensity interval land bike ergonomic exercise (LBEHIIE) in postmenopausal women. Eleven postmenopausal women completed WHIIE or LBEHIIE in counter-balanced order. Eight sets were performed and each exercise set included high intensity with 80% heart rate reserve (HRR) in 30 s and dynamic recovery with 50% HRR in 90 s. Muscle tissue oxygen saturation index (TSI), total hemoglobin (tHb), oxy-hemoglobin (O2Hb), and deoxy-hemoglobin (HHb) were recorded. Blood lactate, heart rate and rating of perceived exertion (RPE) were measured at pre and post-exercise. Under similar exercise intensity, RPE in WHIIE was lower than that in LBEHIIE. The heart rate in WHIIE was lower than that in LBEHIIE at 1 and 2 min post-exercise. During the dynamic recovery, TSI, tHb, and O2Hb in water were higher than on land. A negative correlation was found between the change in TSI and lactate concentration (r = − 0.664). WHIIE produced greater muscle oxygenation during dynamic recovery. Muscle TSI% was inversely related to blood lactate concentration during exercise in water.