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Take it to the Pool: Benefits of Aquatic Exercise for Arthritis


Exercise is not only good for your overall health; it's also great for managing arthritis. Exercise keeps joints flexible and the muscles around the joints strong. In fact, the Arthritis Foundation recommends that people with arthritis get at least 30 minutes of exercise, at least five days a week - that's the same recommended amount for the average adult.

"However, if you live with arthritis, certain types of exercise may aggravate joint pain or even seem too difficult because of limited joint mobility," says Dr. Daniel Linehan, orthopedic surgeon at Orthopedic & Sports Medicine Specialists of Green Bay. "For these reasons, water exercise is one of the best types of activities for those with arthritis."

There are many benefits of water exercise, including:

  • Less stress on arthritic joints. Water helps supports your body's weight while exercising, which reduces the amount of stress put on weight-bearing joints like the hips and knees.
  • Larger freedom of movement. Since water does support your body, water exercise isn't limited by your ability to balance. You can move through full range of motion without fear of falling.
  • Additional resistance. When you exercise in water, you are moving through 12 times the resistance of air. Therefore, it's a great way to strengthen muscles and improve cardiovascular stamina.
  • Easing pain when done in a warm pool. Heat is an effective method to relieve pain as well as improve your muscles' range of motion. So when water exercise is completed in a pool that's heated, it can provide all the other benefits of water exercise plus additional pain relief.

Here are three types of water exercise you can try:

  1. Swimming is an excellent low impact exercise for anybody because it works all of your muscle groups as well as the cardiovascular system.
  2. Water walking. Similar to swimming, water walking is a strengthening and cardio exercise. Plus, it's really simple. All you need to do is stand in waist- to chest-deep water and walk. You can go forward, backward and sideways to work different muscles, and you can increase the intensity by adding knee lifts or pumping the arms.
  3. Water aerobics. Aerobic exercise tends to be higher-impact, which can easily trigger joint pain, swelling or stiffness. However, when done in water, the impact on your joints decreases by 75 percent. Water aerobics allows people with arthritis to benefit from the full body workout that aerobics provides.

Orthopedic & Sports Medicine Specialists of Green Bay (OSMS) is a full-service, independent orthopedic and rheumatology clinic with a 50+ year tradition of providing comprehensive musculoskeletal care to Green Bay, Wisconsin and the surrounding areas. The OSMS physicians are dedicated to continually improving patient results by offering high-quality, cost-effective and specialized orthopedic, sports medicine and rheumatologic care.