Swimming can be fun, relaxing and refreshing, but who knew how many ways it can help those suffering from arthritis symptoms? Regular exercise does not hurt arthritis patients, despite what some people claim. In fact, studies have shown that exercise helps to reduce pain and inflammation, increases range of motion, and builds up the muscles to support the affected joints. When you are trying to exercise to help your arthritis, it doesn’t need to be intense or vigorous. Slow and simple movements still get the blood flowing and provide the joint mobility and pain relief you need.
Why Water is Good
Water is an ideal place for arthritis patients to get moving. The water supports a good portion of your body weight, allowing you to move freely without feeling a lot of impact on your joints. Also, moving your extremities through the water offers 12 times the resistance of air, which leads to muscle strength and endurance. Some pools that are kept at warmer temperatures can be therapeutic for achy joints.
Different Exercises for Different Joints
Depending on which joints are causing you issues, you can vary your exercises accordingly. If your legs are giving you trouble, simply walking laps in a pool can help ease discomfort. Obviously, the deeper the water, the more resistance you will encounter. You can also try walking backward or sideways to work your joints in a different direction.
If you are looking for an upper body workout, move your arms back and forth underwater as if you are pushing the water in each direction. Moving wrists and arms in a circular pattern can help to take your joints through a full range of motion. You can also do swimming strokes that focus on the upper body such as the front crawl.
For full-body workouts, try something that engages lots of muscles and joints such as treading water or doggie paddle.
Many pools and recreation centers offer water aerobics, and some classes are even specifically designed for people with joint problems. If you need more ideas of types of exercises to do in the water, you can always ask your doctor or a physical therapist for some tips.
The Only Drawback
Water provides a great environment to support body weight, relieve pain and stiffness, improve range of motion, reduce inflammation, and increase muscle strength and endurance. Swimming is not, however, a weight-bearing exercise. Weight bearing exercises, or exercises where you need to physically support the full weight of your body and work against gravity, help build bone strength and protect against brittleness. Bone is living tissue that responds favorably to stress by becoming stronger and denser. So once you’ve worked out the kinks with some water activity, add a little weight bearing exercise to reduce your risk of osteoporosis and fractures.