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Swimming is Good for Your Joints

The Benefits of Swimming for Arthritis

One of the best ways to mitigate the pain and stiffness of arthritis while not causing additional irritation is to engage in swimming and other water-based exercise.

Image Credit: Fort Rucker

Image Caption: John Edmunds, who reached the 750-mile achievement in the Swim for Life program, swims laps at Flynn Pool Aug. 13. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

There are three types of physical therapy that help significantly with arthritis:

  • Strengthening exercises

  • Range of motion exercises

  • Aerobics

While good old-fashioned swimming can effectively cover your range-of-motion and aerobic exercises, additional strengthening exercises should ideally be incorporated.

Water Walking and Water Therapy

In Florida, a great way to incorporate your strengthening exercises while also minimizing joint pain and overcoming heat issues is to just stay in the water. Rather than going walking and swimming, the new joint-friendly alternative is to engage in water therapy, also known as "water walking”.

Image Credit: Suzanne Andrews at YouTube

Image Caption: Suzanne Andrews Arthritis Water Therapy Program

Image Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eFIld-EmTEs

In a video about the Suzanne Andrews Arthritis Water Therapy program, Dr. Nathan Wei, Director of Arthritis and Osteoporosis Center of Maryland, explains that the program is great because it includes all the exercise types you need: aerobic, stretching, and resistance training. He also notes that, "… it takes advantage of the buoyancy of water, which is so important to arthritic joints.”

Here’s a brief overview of how basic water walking works:

  • Exercisers stand about waist to chest deep in the water.

  • If deep-water walking, you may be deeper in for a more intense workout, but a flotation belt must be worn to keep you at about shoulder level.

  • Walk straight through the water, just as you would normally, and then switch to backward and side-to-side movement.

  • Engage in good posture. Focus on utilizing your core muscles to avoid back strain, and place entire foot on the bottom of the pool (as opposed to walking on your tiptoes).

  • Add intensity at your comfort to increase your workout at your desired level. Lift knees higher, mix in interval training, and move your arms and legs faster for brief periods of time. Repeat several times for a fierce workout.

Why Exercise Is Important

Exercise is one of the best things you can do to proactively overcome joint pain and arthritis. It can also lead you to an overall healthier lifestyle. According to a Mayo Clinic article on exercise and arthritis, exercise can:

  • Mitigate your joint pain and stiffness

  • Strengthen your muscles

  • Increase your flexibility

  • Help you with overall cardiovascular fatigue issues

  • Improve your mental health and mood

  • Help with your sleep issues

  • Maintain your bone strength

  • Help manage your weight

Overcoming the Mental and Physical Block

While exercise is pretty much always good for joint health, one of the most difficult hurdles for everyone to get over is the initial hesitancy to exercise when they are already in pain. This is the hesitancy that keeps creeping back and subconsciously warning you. It tells you that it can’t be good for you to exercise when your joints already hurting. But actually the voice inside your head is wrong in this instance, though we all know it means well.

That’s why getting exercise in water is great for arthritis sufferers – it helps arthritis sufferers get the exercise they need without aggravating their pain. Christine Miller, from HealthCentral.com, says in her article about swimming and rheumatoid arthritis:

"From my perspective, swimming and water aerobics are great because it feels good and my joints don't swell up afterward. It's also something that I can do even when I'm having a flare.”

Figuring Out Your Limits

Certain precautions should always be taken before seriously considering what exercise option is best for you. For this, you should consult your personal doctor or physical therapist and ask them what exercise plans will best benefit your particular issues with joint pain and/or arthritis.

The Time is Now!

Image Credit: HealthJoinIn at YouTube

Image Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gPcyALgsZnk

Swimming and water based exercises are some of the best and easiest things to do to help with your arthritis. They are inexpensive, joint-friendly, and can be loads of fun. In the video above, Rosemary Lichten at RealHealth explains the fun and health benefits of water aerobics.

So go for it!

Don’t let your mental and physical block prevent you from becoming healthier and feeling better.

Talk to your doctor or physical therapist and figure out the right program for you.

You will see and feel the benefits sooner than you think!