Exercising in water is not only one of the most refreshing and invigorating workouts you can do but also an effective workout for the health benefits you’ll achieve. And for those who suffer from arthritic joints or who need rehabilitation from an injury, it can be a lifesaver for remaining physically active in an exercise program.
Even if you don’t know how to swim, water aerobics can be done by most anyone and is perfect for increasing strength, flexibility, and endurance while reducing stress on joints. What makes working out in water so effective for people with arthritis is the way in which stress is reduced from the joints - when supported by shoulder-depth water your body loses 90 percent of its weight – in waist-high water, about 50 percent. That’s a huge relief on stiff joints making it an ideal form of exercise.
Working out in water creates resistance making it just as intense as some types of exercises on land. Depending on the vigorousness of the workout, a person can burn up to 8 to 12 calories a minute. A 45 minute workout in water would potentially burn up to 360 calories.
An excellent water workout is to walk or run in knee-deep water going forwards, backwards, and sideways. Walking at a steady pace for an hour in water could burn as much as 500 calories.
Water temperature makes a difference – it it’s too cold (78 degrees or less) then that could aggravate arthritis. If the temperature is above 88 degrees, your heart rate may increase and it is harder to dissipate heat. A temperature zone between 83 to 88 degrees is considered ideal when exercising in water.
The nice thing about a water workout is it doesn’t require much special equipment. Simply wear a swimsuit, or a pair of shorts and a T-shirt. If the water is chilly, a wetsuit or unitard might be a good investment as it provides additional warmth. Nonskid, cushioned soles or “aqua” sandals of rubberized material, is a good idea if the bottom surface of the pool is rough or slick. If exercising in deep water, a flotation belt or vest is also a wise investment. This will help keep your head above water and free your body for constant motion.
Unless you have your own private pool, consider joining a gym, health club, or the Y. Ask your doctor or physical therapist for the most convenient location offering water aerobics in the area you live.