Why Swimming is Great For Arthritis

February 19, 2021

If you suffer from joint pain and arthritis, swimming is an exercise that you can rely on.

Few workouts can rival swimming in the joint-friendly department due to the simple fact that being in water offers a release from gravity that can’t be found elsewhere. This puts the “low” in low-impact and creates a sense of freedom and buoyancy that’s excellent for stress relief. Plus, it’s a way to get in some cardio without all the sweat…and that’s not even scratching the surface of the health benefits!

Here’s why swimming should be your workout of choice if you have arthritis. 

The benefits of regular exercise

Exercise is incredibly beneficial for people living with arthritis, especially when it comes to improving day-to-day function.

It’s even been called “the most effective, non-drug treatment for reducing pain and improving movement.” While it might seem counterintuitive, it’s inactivity rather than physical activity that will aggravate your joint pain and muscle stiffness.

Here’s why: Exercise is what strengthens the muscles and tissues surrounding your joints. When your joints are supported by strong muscles, there’s less pressure on them. Plus, exercise boosts your endorphins and helps you battle everyday problems like fatigue and low energy.

Physical activity also helps you achieve or maintain a healthy body weight.  Being overweight worsens the symptoms of arthritis and can accelerate the progression of the disease. This is even more important as we age, because we begin to naturally lose muscle mass and our metabolism slows down. The bottom line is that exercise keeps you mobile and functional!

Why is swimming so good for you? 

Working out in water helps reduce the impact of the exertion on your joints — which means you’re much less likely to suffer from more arthritis pain. The low-impact exercise uses water buoyancy as a tool to support your body weight by up to 90%. That means your joints experience hardly any impact, especially compared to traditional workouts like running and cycling.

There’s plenty of science to back up the benefits of swimming, too. A study published in the American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation found that women with rheumatoid arthritis who did water-based exercises three times a week for 16 weeks saw significant improvements in disease activity, pain, and functional capacity compared to those who did land-based exercises. The great thing about the water is that it also makes certain movements possible that may be painful for you on land (which helps improve strength and flexibility in those joints).

For those suffering from a lot of pain, moving through water can stimulate your joints via blood circulation. This is particularly helpful if you have stiff muscles or frozen joints. 

Lastly, your muscles work harder in water due to the resistance against them. You’re getting an incredible workout (arguably one of the best for the body) without the wear and tear. It’s even been said that water provides 12 times more resistance than air!

The best swimming workout moves

If you’re ready to jump in the pool, make sure you know which workouts are safe and effective for arthritis. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Arm Circles – With just your head above water, extend your arms out straight and slowly circle your arms. You can increase the size of the circles as you move. Then go the opposite direction for the same amount of reps.
  • Walking – Walking through the pool can help you get a workout in. It’s a great way to increase your heart rate and keep things simple. To spice up you walk, you can add in a few jumping jacks.
  • Forward Lunge – If you were a lunge-lover before arthritis pain, you can return to them without worry in the water.
  • Hip Kickers – Hip kickers are a safe way to work your core and hip joints. Stand hip- or waist-deep with the pool wall to one side of your body for support. Kick one leg forward direction with the knee straight, then return to start. Move the same leg to the side, and return to start. Finally, kick the same leg back and return to start. Then, it’s time to hit the other side!

It’s worth a mention that lap swimming is great exercise for those with arthritis, especially as a low-impact form of cardio. A lot of fitness classes geared toward those with arthritis tend to be in warmer water, which is soothing for the joints. However, lap swimming in colder water (which is necessary so you don’t overheat) is great, too.


Tips for swimming safely

While swimming is a safe and effective workout for arthritis, there’s a few things you should know before splashing in.

Talk to your doctor

Before changing your routine or starting a new workout, you should always talk to your doctor. Ensure your plans are suitable for your specific case of arthritis and ask for tips on exercises that will be best for you.

Take a class

If you want a seasoned instructor who can guide you through a workout, an aqua fitness class is a great way to get started. Check out CA’s class schedule for options like Aqua Arthritis, Aqua Zumba and more. Let your instructor know that you have arthritis so that they can offer any modifications that may be helpful.

Drink Water

You can still sweat while swimming! Don’t forget to take a water bottle with you to stay well-hydrated. 

Water Shoes

Walk through water easier with water shoes. They’ll help you move through the water like it’s not even there. 


Splash In With CA

At CA, our warm water therapy pool is a hit for those with arthritis. We also have two additional indoor swimming pools located at Supreme Sports Club and Columbia Gym. Don’t forget about our aqua fitness classes!

To learn more about our pools, check out our website!

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