Water Exercises for Arthritis

Find out why working out in water is great for those with joint pain.

It’s recommended that adults get at least two and a half hours of aerobic exercise every week. Hitting that goal can be tough, especially when dealing with arthritis or generally painful joints. Even worse, when overweight, you’re putting your joints under added stress, making it even harder to exercise. The good news: when done right, getting active can reduce your pain and improve your flexibility. Water exercise is perfect for those with joint pain. When you exercise in water, buoyancy lifts your body so there’s less weight on your joints, warm water can soothe pain and the water resistance alone gives your muscles a workout. Find out which one’s best for you.

Walking in Water
This is a low intensity exercise great for beginners. Since water is more resistant than air, walking normally in water is more difficult and makes your muscles stronger. If you want to make it more difficult, try holding light weights. Be sure to wear a floatation belt if walking in deep water.

This is a full body, calorie burning workout that can be done without much equipment in just about any pool. It’s a great exercise that can quickly improve your circulation, breathing and strength. When starting out, take it slow and stop for breaks after every couple of laps to prevent cramps—it takes time to build endurance. Start out with a stroke you’re most comfortable with.

Water Aerobics

These exercises are good when you’re looking to work out certain muscles. Local gyms or community centers usually have water aerobics classes—some are even specifically for those with arthritis. Classes usually last an hour and include cardio and strength components. Here are some exercises you can do when you’re not in class:

  • If you have a kickboard, stand up straight in the pool while holding the kickboard along your right arm with both hands. Move the kickboard away from your body and back towards it like you’re swinging a tennis racket or bat. Repeat 12 to 15 times, then move the kickboard to the other arm and repeat.
  • If you have a pool noodle, tie it into a knot around your foot or water shoe. Stand up straight with your back against the side of the pool in waist-level water and place your arms comfortably along the pool edge. Lift your knee up, straighten your leg out like you’re kicking, then bring your foot back towards your body. Repeat 12 to 15 times, then switch to the other leg.
  • If you have foam barbells, hold them at your side with both hands with your palms pointing up. Lift them up towards the surface of the water, while keeping your elbows close to your body and your wrists straight. Then, turn your palms down so they’re facing the bottom of the pool and push the barbells down to your sides again. Repeat 12 to 15 times.

Whether you’re swimming or doing water aerobics, these exercises can be done no matter how old you are. Be sure to always talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise routine.


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