The American Council on Exercise mentions these potential benefits of water exercises:
- Reduced stress on the muscles and joints, often lowering the risk of injury and soreness after a workout.
- The water itself adds resistance, providing for a better workout.
- Offering greater flexibility of performing exercises that wouldn’t always be possible out of the water. This is especially true for people with arthritis and other conditions that can limit range of motion.
For the past 25 years, water exercise has been prescribed for people with all types of arthritis, including osteoarthritis and juvenile arthritis, because it improves range of motion and flexibility and relieves joint pain and stiffness.
Other reasons why a water exercise program is a good choice if for managing arthritis include:
- Water is buoyant. It supports your body so your joints don’t have to work as hard.
- If you exercise in a heated pool, you’ll get the added benefit of warmth, which helps soothe sore joints.
- Water creates a natural resistance when you move your body through it, giving your muscles a good workout without the need for weights.
Age and physical condition aren’t issues in the water. Kids love to play in water without realizing it’s good for them. Seniors who rely on a walker or wheelchair on land can stand in water with the help of flotation belts and the water’s buoyancy.
Water’s buoyancy accommodates both the fit and unfit. Water cushions stiff and painful joints or fragile bones that might be injured by the impact of land exercises.
When immersed to the waist, your body bears just 50% of its weight; immersed to the chest, it’s 25%-35%; and to the neck, 10%. In addition, says See, the lower gravity promotes the return of blood to the heart from the extremities.
Water aerobics classes feature vertical exercises that often mimic land exercises, like dancing, walking, running, jumping jacks, and kickboxing.
While swimming is a horizontal exercise performed on the top of the water, vertical exercises increase the workload because they’re done below the surface where drag is greater.
If you’re just beginning an exercise program, start slowly by walking in shallow water. Gradually increase the intensity of your workout by moving to waist-high, then chest-high water, and adding movements that use both arms and legs. Always do a five-minute warm-up and cool-down.