Swimming is not only the perfect way to cool off on a hot summer day, but it is also one of the best exercises for those who suffer from arthritis. Here, Gerald Miley, MD, rheumatologist at NEBH, explains what arthritis is, why exercise is important, and the overall health benefits of swimming.
What is Arthritis?
The word arthritis is derived from the Greek word ARTHRON which means a joint. ITIS is also from ancient Greek and means disease characterized by inflammation. There are over 100 conditions known as arthritis. The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis (also known as degenerative arthritis), rheumatoid arthritis, gout and psoriatic arthritis. Weight bearing joints like the spine, hips, knees and ankles are at an increased risk for arthritis as they take the brunt of forces against gravity such as running, jumping and walking.
Exercise can be a challenge for those who live with arthritis, but it is important as it can strengthen the muscles, tendons and ligaments around damaged joints and give them support to prevent injury and maintain range of motion. Swimming is a particularly good exercise for those with arthritis as the buoyancy of the water supports your body’s weight, providing a low impact workout that reduces stress on your joints.
Swimming provides a complete body workout and combines cardiovascular fitness with building muscles. When you swim, all the major muscle groups are used, including hips, legs, abdominals, back and shoulders. Exercising in water provides resistance, similar to using a weight resistance machine at the gym. You can control the amount of resistance, as it is comparative to the force you are pushing the water with. This resistance builds strength and endurance for each move, kick, push and pull that is made.
Finally, swimming can also help provide mental calmness. Many people find the repetition of running or cycling on a stationary bike unappealing and stressful. Swimming can be a relaxing form of exercise, and release endorphins in the body, which can improve feelings of well-being.
Always check with your doctor before beginning a new exercise routine.