If you have painful arthritis, you may feel like you’re caught in a catch -22 dilemma: you need to exercise, but it hurts to move. The truth is, not only can you exercise with arthritis…you need to exercise for the arthritis. Regular exercise will help you minimize the pain, debility, and in some cases, the progression of arthritis. Keeping a joint moving and keeping the muscles around it strong are two key elements in controlling these symptoms of arthritis. Doing aquatic exercise–exercises in water–helps you achieve both of those things in an effective and pain-free way.
That doesn’t mean you necessarily have to swim. You can do virtually the same exercises in the water that you can do on land, plus a few others–walking, side walking, marching, kicking–but water allows you to tolerate them better and offers a few additional bonuses over land-based exercise. Most of the benefits come from the more favorable properties of water compared to air:
- Because water is more buoyant, it actually supports some of your weight, reducing the amount of weight that your joints have to support. Less weight equals less pain.
- Water is also much denser than air, so it provides resistance to your movements. This helps you build strength and can also improve your balance.
- Water transfers heat better than air, so a warm water pool helps increase blood flow to “loosen up” your muscles and joints, reducing some of the stiffness felt on land. This will help you move your joints better and maintain good range of motion that is so crucial to maintaining function.
- And of course, if you stumble, you are less likely to injure yourself in water compared to falling on land.
All in all, aquatic exercise is an excellent choice for those with arthritis who want to minimize pain and improve their function. There will be less stress and more range of motion for the joints, and more resistance for the muscles. It will actually feel good to exercise, and you will have less discomfort going about your everyday life. So hit a (heated) pool near you and just start moving…