Looking for a way to liven up your exercise routine?
Try leaving dry land. A warm pool is the ideal environment for soothing stiff knee joints aching from osteoarthritis. The buoyancy of the water helps support your joints, making it easier to move them freely. Water also offers resistance for muscles to work against, helping them get stronger and providing great knee support. Meanwhile, the warmth of the water causes blood vessels to dilate, increasing circulation.
Everybody into the pool
Water exercise has long been a favorite of people with arthritis and osteoarthritis. A study by British researchers bears out the benefits of taking your workouts waterborne . The study included 312 adults with knee or hip osteoarthritis, about half of whom were randomly selected to take part in a water exercise program.
The water exercise classes were held twice a week for a year. Each hour-long class started with a warm-up, followed by exercises and/or swimming to improve strength, range of motion, flexibility, cardiovascular fitness, balance and coordination. The result: Water exercise over the course of a year resulted in a modest reduction in osteoarthritis pain and improved physical function.
After the study ended, people could continue the classes at their own cost, but fewer than one in five kept it up for the next six months. The improvements in pain generally disappeared during this period. This highlights the importance of continuing to exercise in order to maintain the benefits.
Come on in, the water’s finel
Water exercise is best done in water that is comfortably warm, not hot. The Arthritis Foundation® recommends a water temperature of 83° to 88° F. When you first get into the pool, take a few minutes to savor the soothing effect of the water. Once your muscles and joints feel more relaxed and comfortable, you’re ready to begin your workout.
Almost anyone can take part in water exercise. You might do something as simple as walking in waist-high or deeper water while swinging your arms. Or you might perform various strength moves using special equipment, such as webbed gloves, foam barbells, kickboards and water noodles. In addition, you may do some flexibility moves, made easier by the warmth and buoyancy of the water.
To learn how to exercise safely and effectively in the water, consider signing up for a class. In addition to getting expert instruction, you’ll enjoy the camaraderie of the group. Exercising in a group provides emotional support and helps relieve the feelings of depression and isolation that some people with arthritis experience. Just make sure your instructor is familiar with the special needs that go along with having osteoarthritis.
The bottom line
Water exercise is a low-impact activity that takes the weight off your joints, bones and muscles while you work them out. One good bet for finding a knowledgeable instructor is the Arthritis Foundation Aquatic Program, offered at many community and YMCA pools across the United States. In addition to teaching the basics of water exercise, some facilities also offer advanced-level courses. To find out what’s available in your area, visit www.arthritis.org.