When you suffer from arthritis, settling into a workout routine can be a challenge. Exercise naturally alleviates arthritis pain by strengthening joints, improving flexibility and promoting weight loss, but the wrong kinds of exercises can actually make arthritis worse. How do you choose an activity that will provide optimal benefits without worsening your symptoms?
While there are several exercises that are suitable for arthritis sufferers, doctors often recommend swimming because it is easy on the joints and provides a full-body workout. Some benefits of swimming include:
- Resistance – Water has 12 times the resistance of air which to help you burn more calories and build stronger muscles.
- Buoyancy – The buoyancy of water supports your body weight to decrease stress on your joints. This is particularly helpful if your arthritis symptoms are caused by excess weight.
- Heat therapy – Heated therapy pools are typically kept between 84 and 96 degrees. The warm water helps to soothe achy joints and improve circulation.
- Cardiovascular health – In addition to building muscle strength and range of motion, swimming improves blood pressure, lowers your heart rate, improves lung function, and increases stamina.
If you’re reluctant to begin exercising due to stiff, swollen or achy joints, start by walking laps in the pool. The water will support your joints to minimize impact, and you can easily set a pace that makes you comfortable. Start in the shallow end for a beginner’s workout and focus on good form. Keep your back straight, shoulders lifted and abdominals engaged. To increase your intensity, move into shoulder-height water and practice walking forwards, backwards or side-stepping.
Swimming laps is another great form of exercise for arthritis sufferers, but you may want to avoid certain strokes based on the type of arthritis you have. For example, those with arthritis in the knees may find the breaststroke to be particularly bothersome. If you have questions or concerns, ask your doctor about swimming strokes that are helpful for your condition and which ones should be avoided.
Exercise is one of the best remedies for arthritis, but remember to start slowly and listen to your body. The mantra “No pain, no gain” does not apply here, and you should immediately stop any activity that becomes painful. Give your body time to gradually grow accustomed to exercise and it will thank you with stronger, healthier joints.