How Does Swimming Benefits Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients
Exercise is probably the last thing on your mind when your joints pain and your energy levels are depleted. However, physical activity is essential for good health. If you are suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, this is even more important. Most adults should obtain 150 minutes of cardiovascular exercise each week, according to the American Heart Association. Swimming is a highly suggested alternative for those with RA since it allows you to move your body and get some exercise without placing extra strain on your hurting joints.
Plus, whether youre a newcomer or a seasoned athlete, working out in the pool can be personalized to meet your specific fitness goals. In this article, we will take a look at how swimming can benefit those who suffer from rheumatology arthritis
Do Short Bursts Of Activity
Physical activity in small amounts really adds up. You might find it easier to add 10 minutes of vacuuming or gardening into a busy day than an hour of exercise. No matter what activity you do, focus on your posture. Stand up straight and let your larger joints handle as much of the work as possible. To track your exercise, wear a pedometer or other fitness device and record how many steps you take each day.
Is Water Exercise For Arthritis The Same As Swimming Laps
Not exactly. One big difference is the water temperature, says Dr. Mulcahy. Many arthritis water exercise programs are conducted in hotter water, which is meant for low-intensity exercise and more soothing for arthritic joints, she explains. Pool temps for a water exercise classes for people with arthritis range from 92 to 98 degrees F.
Lap swimming, on the other hand, is a moderate intensity exercise that requires a cooler pool, with a water temperature between 83 and 88 degrees F, says Dr. Mulcahy. Swimming laps in water thats too warm, such as 90 degrees F or greater, can lead to exhaustion and overheating, she says.
Lap swimming, however, is also great exercise for people with arthritis. It has little impact on joints, lengthens muscles, and improves cardiovascular fitness.
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My Plans For The Future
We are already towards the end of January, and I have continued to swim every day. Honestly, I don’t see an end in sight. With air temperatures averaging 20 degrees and the water around 34 degrees, the shores of Lake Michigan are turning into ice with large ice chunks and some completely frozen areas on the beaches. Finding open water is getting harder. While I decided early on that, I would make cold water therapy a daily practice, the way I do it may change, especially as I wait for spring to arrive. Thankfully, the ice will be melting in March, but the water temperature will stay around 34 and slowly creep up into the 40’s come May. While I may have to cold dip in a tub in my backyard for a few weeks, come March, I will have lots of time for wild swimming until summer.
Have you tried cold water swimming or another type of cold water therapy such as a cold shower or even a fun polar plunge with friends? How did you feel afterward? I would love to know in the comments below!
I have more blog posts coming up discussing my tips and tricks for cold water swimming for rheumatoid arthritis. I am also working on an experiment-I guess it is a new challenge! Make sure to sign up for my newsletter to be updated on when these blog posts drop!
Benefits Your Lymphatic System
When you swim in cold water, the water causes your blood vessels to constrict. This has a beneficial effect on your lymphatic system. Your lymphatic system is a network of vessels and nodes that help to remove toxins, waste, and other harmful substances from your body.
The cold water helps to stimulate the lymphatic system and promote better function. In addition, cold water swimming can also help to boost your immune system. When you expose yourself to cold temperatures, your body produces more white blood cells. These cells help to fight off infection and disease. As a result, cold water swimming can be an excellent way to promote overall health and well-being.
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The Best Swimming Workout Moves
If youre ready to jump in the pool, make sure you know which workouts are safe and effective for arthritis. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Arm Circles With just your head above water, extend your arms out straight and slowly circle your arms. You can increase the size of the circles as you move. Then go the opposite direction for the same amount of reps.
- Walking Walking through the pool can help you get a workout in. Its a great way to increase your heart rate and keep things simple. To spice up you walk, you can add in a few jumping jacks.
- Forward Lunge If you were a lunge-lover before arthritis pain, you can return to them without worry in the water.
- Hip Kickers Hip kickers are a safe way to work your core and hip joints. Stand hip- or waist-deep with the pool wall to one side of your body for support. Kick one leg forward direction with the knee straight, then return to start. Move the same leg to the side, and return to start. Finally, kick the same leg back and return to start. Then, its time to hit the other side!
Its worth a mention that lap swimming is great exercise for those with arthritis, especially as a low-impact form of cardio. A lot of fitness classes geared toward those with arthritis tend to be in warmer water, which is soothing for the joints. However, lap swimming in colder water is great, too.
My Cold Water Challenge
In August 2020, I ended up getting COVID. While I was blessed with a very mild case, the week after being diagnosed, I went into one of my worst flare-ups. Nearly every joint was painful, and I was exhausted. My flare-up ended, and a few days later, I woke up in the middle of the night with hives all over my body. The hives would come and go for the next five days and then eventually spread to my face. I had an immune reaction to the virus, and my body had enough. After going on prednisone and getting my hives under control, I told myself, enough is enough. I’m going to try cold water swimming for rheumatoid arthritis relief.
My challenge started with swimming in Lake Michigan every day for 30 days. September weather is pretty dramatic in northern Michigan. Within four weeks, we go from sunny, warm days in the upper 70’s to maple trees turning yellow and orange and a high of 50. With the weather change, the water temperature would also change, which would allow my body to acclimate to cooler water slowly.
The water temperature started around 61, and by the end of September, it lowered to about 58 degrees. I stayed in the water for 5-10 minutes depending on the waves, if my family was with me, rain, and so on. Even though that’s pretty warm water, it was still a challenge for me. Remember, I was not a fan of cold water.
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Can I Swim Breaststroke When I Have Osteoarthritis
Q) An article in Yours magazine says that swimming breaststroke is not good for osteoarthritis of the hips and knees. Id be grateful if you could tell me the reason for this.
George, Matlock, Derbyshire – 2015
A) People with knee replacements are certainly advised to avoid breaststroke swimming and this extends to arthritic knees and hips. Swimming breaststroke puts excessive side-to-side and rotational forces on the joints and may be difficult to do if the joint is unstable. The preferred direction of force is in flexion , which is why a kick, as done in front crawl and backstroke, is recommended. However, for most people breaststroke is the preferred stroke and they simply cant do the other strokes.
In a busy pool it is difficult to adapt and experiment, but you could try using a float between the legs if you prefer to use the breaststroke arm action and then do the kick either with the float in your hands on while holding on to the side of the pool. You may also be able to do many of the aquarobic exercise classes that are available, although you should talk to the instructor first.
This answer was provided by Dr Philip Helliwell in 2015, and was correct at the time of publication.
What Is Water Exercise
Water exercise involves exercising in a pool, usually a heated, warm water pool, and may also be called hydrotherapy. It is one of the most comfortable and effective ways that a person with arthritis can exercise because the joints and muscles can be exercised while supported in the water.
Water exercise is safe and suitable for people with arthritis. There are various options, depending on your needs, fitness and ability.
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Hit The Pool To Relieve Joint Pain
Remember what it was like to walk without aches? Get that sensation again by taking your workout to the water. Doctors have been praising using the pool to relieve joint pain.
Exercising in a pool provides nearly instant relief from pain and stiffness, says Mary Sanders, PhD, a clinical exercise physiologist at the University of Nevada School of Medicine in Reno. Even if you dont feel comfortable walking on land, the buoyancy of water gives you freedom of movement while providing support.
Slip on your swimsuit and try these aquatic workout tips from Sanders.
Why Swimming Is One Of The Best Exercises For Arthritis
In general, people of all ages can face a condition called arthritis. When you have arthritis it becomes difficult to make a general movement, since joints become painful and inflamed. However, swimming or some other similar water-based exercises and as well as aqua therapy are some of the most effective exercises for arthritis.
During swimming sessions, water supports about 90 percent of your body weight. This, in turn, creates a weightless environment. In result, support from the water helps you to perform physical movements easier which otherwise becomes painful for joints that are affected by the condition.
In addition, you can also tone up supporting muscles with swimming without facing the discomfort of other exercises performed on land. Therefore, this makes swimming also an ideal exercise for people who are disabled or as well as suffer from a long-term injury. Regular swimming also helps to maintain healthy muscle and joints by helping to retain normal muscle strength and structure of joints.
So, as you can see, swimming not only helps you to recover from arthritis, but also it is one of the best exercises to stay away from arthritis.
As previously mentioned, apart from swimming, the other water-based activities or exercises can also become a therapy for individuals suffering from arthritis.
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Try Exercise To Ease Arthritis Pain Stiffness
- By , Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter
Although Im pretty dedicated to my exercise routine, there are times during the long Boston winter when its awfully hard to drag myself out of bed for an early morning workout. I cant image what it would be like to get up to exercise if my joints were stiff and achy. But thats exactly what a friend of mine with rheumatoid arthritis does nearly every morning.
When I first met Sandra about a decade ago, she used a cane while walking outsideeven when the sidewalks were slick with ice and snow, thanks to a retractable circle of sharp metal teeth at the canes tip. Sandra rarely complained about her aching joints, but she was troubled by arthritis-related fatigue. Her fingers were often swollen and her knees stiff, making it difficult to maintain her beautiful backyard and rooftop gardens.
Frustrated, Sandra decided to make some changes. She joined the neighborhood pool down the street from her home and started swimming. Not long, at first, just 10 lengths a day. Gradually, over the course of several months, she increased that distance to 20 lengths. After about a year, Sandra was swimming 36 lengths, or ½ mile, nearly every day. That ½ mile eventually stretched into a full mile. Last New Years Day, just before her 74th birthday, Sandra fulfilled her long-held goal of participating in Bostons annual Polar Bear Plunge, during which locals dive into the icy waters of Dorchester Bay.
About the Author
My Cold Water Swimming Routine
I usually wait a few seconds to allow my lower body to acclimate and then submerge my body to my shoulders. Once my chest is under, I feel a quick flutter in my heart and butterflies in my stomach. It’s a natural reaction to the cold water, but it goes away with the first breath. Next, I focus on being present with the water, making sure I breathe deep. Within a minute, my body has adapted. During this time, I do three things:
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Can Swimming Help My Knee Pain
We tend to head to the pool to beat the summer heat, but there are many more benefits to swimming than just cooling off! No matter your age, weight or condition, swimming is one of the best low-impact activities. In fact, at Raleigh Orthopaedic Clinic we often recommend swimming to our patients with knee arthritis.
When you are suffering from knee arthritis exercising may be the last thing on your mind, but regular activity can actually lessen arthritis pain and other symptoms. Since swimming takes the pressure off the knees it is the ideal option for staying fit and improving mobility even when you are experiencing pain.
How does swimming help?
The buoyancy of the water supports a portion of your body weight, and puts less stress on your aching knee. A regular water exercise program can reduce your joint stiffness, strengthen muscles around your joints and increase flexibility. In addition, swimming is a great aerobic and total body workout as it engages almost every major muscle group, requiring a person to use their arms, legs, torso and abdomen to move through the water.
Are there any downsides to swimming?
What should I do before starting a new exercise program?
In summary, swimming is a great form of physical activity, so jump in and get started!
About the Author
Who Benefits From Water Exercise
Water exercise can be beneficial for people with any form of arthritis. It is particularly helpful for people:
- with arthritis in several joints as all joints can be exercised at once
- with conditions affecting feet, knees, hips and back
- preparing for or recovering from joint replacement surgery
- who find it difficult or painful to exercise on land.
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Other Exercises For Arthritis
It is not just swimming that can help people with arthritis. Here are some other other exercises for arthritis.
Why Is Swimming Good For Joints
Most people experience pain in their knee or other joints at some point in their life. When this happens, you might not feel like exercising. But whether you have arthritis in the knee, have sore knees from running, or you just have aching knees, swimming is one of the best exercises to help knee pain.
When you swim, your body is buoyed by the water. With the water supporting your body weight, you can exercise without adding stress to your body. This lack of stress on your knees and other joints can help relieve pain. The water also provides gentle resistance so as you move your legs against it, youre working your muscles and building up strength.
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High Impact Sports Can Speed Up Or Worsen Joint Pain
High impact activities do not necessarily precipitate arthritis, but they can certainly further the progression in those who already suffer from arthritis, said Taraborelli. Without adequate cartilage, excessive force can be applied through the joint and cause further damage.
Of course, your favorite sports arent all bad. High-impact activities can be great for getting your heart rate up, they improve balance and may improve bone density when done safely. But there is a big difference between strain and pain. Listen to your body during and after you exercise. If youre pushing through pain, your joints are asking for a low-impact option.