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Aquatic Exercise: How to Exercise with Less Joint Pain

Picture of three people partaking in aquatic exercise.

Do you suffer from joint pain in your hips or knees?  Do normal types of exercises like walking, cycling, or strength training only seem to make your pain worse?

This is the case for many who suffer from arthritic joint pain. The associated pain can be discouraging and lead to a sedentary lifestyle and the situation can become even grimmer when you decide it’s time for a joint replacement surgery to alleviate your pain.

When you look to surgery as a solution, your orthopedist will likely say that you have to lose weight first. But, how will you exercise enough to lose weight with that kind of pain?

Enter aquatic exercise.

Aquatic exercise is becoming increasingly more popular because it allows people to exercise with less joint pain. The primary reason for this is the buoyancy of water decreases impact on the joints. The reduction in impact allows someone to workout longer and harder with less joint pain, which helps accelerate your progress towards reaching mobility, strength, and weight goals.

Water also provides 12 times more resistance than air, so you have to work harder than you would on dry land which in turn burns more calories.

Aquatic exercise can also be performed in warm water pools (temperatures between 82-88 degrees Fahrenheit), which tends to soothe arthritic joints.

There are also many types of aquatic exercises, including swimming, water walking, water aerobics, and water strengthening.  Water exercise can either be performed by yourself, with a friend or with a class.

In fact, aquatic exercise is becoming so popular because of its benefits that community centers, gyms, recreation associations, and athletic clubs are increasing the number of their aquatic exercise classes.  Most aquatic facilities also provide the equipment needed for aerobic and strengthening classes.

Speak with your Phoenix physical therapist about aquatic exercise to determine if it is right for you and what kind would be best to start with.

References: The Arthritis Foundation

This post was written by Ethan Sherman, PT, DPT, Board Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist.  He was a Collegiate Swimmer at James Madison University, where he received his Bachelor of Science degree.  He then received his Doctorate of Physical Therapy degree from Virginia Commonwealth University/Medical College of Virginia and is now the facility director at our clinic in Richmond, Virginia.