For people affected by arthritis, regular exercise can go a long way toward relieving chronic discomfort. Exercise strengthens muscles so that there’s less stress on inflamed joints. According to the Arthritis Foundation, a national advocacy group, swimming is one of the best types of exercise for people struggling with arthritis. The natural buoyancy of water supports the body’s weight, which relieves joint stress and minimizes pain.
What Is Arthritis?
Arthritis is a rheumatic disorder that affects the joints. Its two primary symptoms are joint pain and joint stiffness. The Centers for Disease Control and Health Information notes that there are more than 100 different diseases that are classified as arthritis. Among the most common are:
• Osteoarthritis: Osteoarthritis causes cartilage to break down. Cartilage is the hard connective tissue that typically forms at the juncture of two bones when they articulate to form a joint. Osteoarthritis is commonly associated with aging but can also be caused by an acute injury.
• Rheumatoid arthritis: Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system forms antibodies that attack the joints as well as other tissues. Rheumatoid arthritis initially attacks the synovial lining within the joints, which leads to erosion of cartilage.
• Lupus: Lupus is another autoimmune disease that can cause severe damage to the joints as well as to other parts of the body, including the skin, kidneys, heart, lungs and blood cells.
• Gout: Gout is a form of arthritis in which uric acid crystals accumulate in the joint of the big toe, causing inflammation and intense pain.
• Septic arthritis: Septic arthritis is an inflammation of a joint that’s caused or exacerbated by bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites.
How Swimming Helps Arthritis Sufferers
When you swim in a pool, the water supports approximately 90 percent of your body weight. You can move relatively vigorously without placing undue strain on your joints because the water is holding up your body. This allows you to tone up your muscles. Strong muscles may help make movement far less painful when you’re outside the pool. Swimming is not only an excellent therapy for arthritis sufferers. Swimming may also help prevent the development of arthritis if your health care provider has identified arthritis as a risk.
Swimming is also a way that people with arthritis can build cardiovascular endurance. Swimming in warm water may feel the best, but exercise experts say that it’s better to swim in a cooler pool. When you exercise, both your heart rate and your blood pressure rise. Cooler water will help your heart rate and blood pressure from rising too quickly.
Water Exercises for Arthritis
There are many different types of exercise you can do in a pool:
• Swimming laps: Each swimming stroke mobilizes the joints in a different way. You may have to do some experimentation to find the stroke that best fits your needs. Many people find the crawl to be optimal exercise since when you’re doing this stroke. Only 20 percent of your forward momentum is actually provided by the kicking motion of your legs. When you do the crawl, you’re using your legs primarily for balance and stability. Kick boards and other swimming equipment can also help you maintain your strokes when you’re swimming laps in a pool.
• Aqua-jogging: Aqua-jogging is running in place while you’re standing in a pool. This is a weight-bearing exercise, but jogging in a pool lessens the strain on your knees and hips by 50 percent as compared to walking on land.
• Aqua-aerobics: Aqua-aerobics is a type of resistance training that’s done while you’re standing waist-deep in a pool. Many types exercise can be performed in this manner, including yoga and Zumba. One benefit of aqua-aerobics is that it provides a good workout for the upper part of your body as well as for your legs.
If you have arthritis, custom pools in Houston may be just what the doctor ordered.