Swimming: The Ideal Exercise for Arthritis Sufferers

Posted on Jul 26, 2012, by

When you think of swimming, you probably picture summer days at the pool or lake. Swimming is more than just a fun summer activity, however. It can also be a natural way to strengthen your muscles and improve your health.

Exercise is necessary for anyone with arthritis, a recent ACL surgery, or a hip or knee replacement. Regular exercise helps keep weight down, reducing strain on the joints and ligaments. People who have had knee replacement surgery, ligament or joint injuries, or who suffer from arthritis, may have initial trouble with high-impact exercises. Swimming provides a chance to burn calories with minimal stress on your joints.

Swimming is a whole-body workout. Not only do you use your arms and legs, but your core muscles are constantly working to keep you afloat. At the same time, the water helps support your weight to lessen the impact of exercise on your body. Walking, aerobics, biking and running all involve repeated impact to the joints, which can cause more pain. For many people with arthritis, swimming and other low impact workouts are excellent ways to continue exercising without contributing to joint pain.

Swimming not only helps you get in shape, but it also improves joint mobility and range of motion. As you swim, you strengthen the muscles and tissue surrounding the bones and joints. As a result, you will have greater bone strength and improve balance and stability, reducing the chances that you will cause further damage to your joints.

Emily Kellogg, a recent surgical knee patient at the Kennedy Center, enthusiastically endorses swimming as wonderful, pain-free exercise: “I have arthritis in both knees and walking on hard surfaces like sidewalks had become too painful. Since I’ve begun swimming four to five times a week, my whole body feels better, not just my knees. My back, hips and shoulders feel stronger and the muscles are more relaxed. An added benefit is that I’m sleeping much better, too.” For many arthritis sufferers, swimming in a pool heated to at least 83 degrees helps reduce pain and stiffness. If you’re not a swimmer, you can still take advantage of the low-impact benefits of water by walking or jogging in the shallow end of the pool.

Doctors at the Kennedy Center advocate swimming as a great way to relieve your arthritis pain while burning calories. And the best thing about swimming is that being in the water is just plain fun, helping you reduce mental as well as physical stress.