What is Arthritis?

Arthritis affects an estimated 50 million people in America alone. The most common form, known as osteoarthritis occurs simply because the delicate joint tissues wear away over time. A more virulent form, rheumatoid arthritis, is in fact an autoimmune disease. Rheumatoid arthritis patients suffer from a deterioration of the already-thin joint linings, or "synovium", as the body mysteriously attacks itself. Ranging in sensation from minimal discomfort to extreme pain, arthritis can affect any and all parts of the body, making it difficult to enjoy daily activities.

Water: A Painless Workout Environment

There's no question that people suffering from arthritis have a harder time working out on dry land. Cardio workouts and strength training in the gym becomes virtually impossible due to the joint discomfort associated with the disease. But, more and more patients are turning to the water to get a great full body, cardio workout without putting extra pressure on sore joints. Water workouts are ideal for people suffering from arthritis, as well as those rehabilitating old injuries or just simply getting back into shape.

Aquatic exercise is so ideal for people with arthritis because of the soothing effects of the water. Simply being in a aquatic environment can help relieve joint stress. The water acts as an "envelope" that surrounds and supports the body from every angle. Not only does this help provide a virtually painfree workout, but the hydrostatic pressure on the body also helps increase blood circulation. The water’s buoyancy also helps to support and comfort a tired body.

Pool Temperature

Working out in warm pool water can also help ease the discomfort of the disease. The warmer temperature helps dilate small blood vessels and further increases healthy circulation. Joints won’t swell up after a water workout and the body can recover quicker after swimming or aquatic aerobics routines. Plus, the environment allows patients to increase range of motion by stretching, while simultaneously strength building or working on cardio. Water’s density gives participants a chance to work their muscles without having to rely on heavy, hard to grasp weight equipment (a real nightmare for arthritis sufferers).

Deep Water Walking/Jogging

If you’re interested in starting a water workout routine to help manage your arthritis, then take a look at the simple exercises below. They’ll help you get on the right track:

This is one of the easiest and most effective water workouts that people with arthritis can easily do. Deep water walking or running is great because it doesn’t put any stress on the ankle, knee or hip joints. Instead of pushing off the ground, or even the bottom of the pool, this exercise utilizes the natural resistance of water.

If you're uncomfortable with being in deep water, or if you don't have the strength to tread water, you will want to use a flotation belt that will help keep your head and chest well above water. Move to the deep end of the pool, at least far enough that your feet no longer touch the bottom, and begin walking or jogging in an upright position. Try to keep moving for at least 5 minutes to start and, as you progress, you should be able to increase your time up to 20, 30 or even 40 minutes. To increase intensity, try lifting your knees higher and pumping your straightened arms back and forth along with your jogging tempo.

Weight Training with Hand Buoys

Lifting weights in the gym is out of the question for most people with arthritis. But using hand buoys is a good, strength-training alternative. These easy to grip devices were designed with arthritic users in mind. Use them along the water’s surface for a lighter workout, or submerge the dumbbells for a stronger resistance workout.

For an upper body exercise, hold one hand buoy with both hands, palms down, out in front of your body at the water’s surface. Slowly submerge the buoy into the water, paying attention to the muscle contractions in your back and shoulder. Hand buoys can also give a great core workout. To work your abs, stand in chest deep water with legs slightly more than shoulder width apart. Hold one buoy vertically at your belly button using both hands. Move the hand buoy side to side in a figure-8 pattern to really feel it working your inner and outer abdominal muscles.


Believe it or not, people with arthritis can still enjoy the cardio and strength training benefits of swimming. With little to no joint pain, swimming can help patients get back into shape or stay in shape.. Here’s a simple water workout that any arthritic swimmer can master.

500 Yard Easy Swim

2 x 50 yards warm up at a slow pace
4 x 25 yards at a slow to medium pace. Rest 15 seconds between laps.
4 x 50 yards at a medium pace. Rest 30 seconds between sets.
2 x 25 yards at a medium to fast pace. Rest 10 seconds between laps.
1 x 50 yards cool down.

If you’re living with arthritis and find it hard to manage pain while exercising, give the water a try. Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

Author's Bio: 

My involvement in swim fitness and water exercise began with my own love of water as a healing, yet resistive force. My background includes nearly a decade of water safety instruction, many years as an aquatic aerobics instructor, as well as a personal interest in swimming and the effects of water on the human body.