MAKING WAVES – Aquatic Fitness for Arthritis Sufferers

Arthritis in The U.S.

For adults and children living with arthritis, aquatic exercise programs offer targeted components to help reduce joint pain and stiffness, and maintain or improve joint mobility, muscle strength, and functional ability. In the U.S., more than 100 types of arthritis autoimmune diseases affecting over 54,000,000 adults. The two most common are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. In American children, over 300,000 are diagnosed with juvenile arthritis. Overall, the numbers continue climbing. Health cofactors include existing obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Insufficient or nominal physical activity and movement compounds arthritic pain. While no form of exercise reverses arthritic damage, regular exercise helps to prevent arthritis from worsening. Joints that do not move do not work well.

What Exercise Is Best?

When considering an appropriate form of exercise, there is no need to fear that arthritis or associated pain will worsen with exercise, or that joints may be harmed. The distinctive water environment supports, assists, and resists the body in motion. For example, water buoyancy fully supports the body by reducing impact and allowing for easier, less painful movements. This is why water ameliorates pain of arthritic joints. A swimming pool’s water temperature is between 86-90° F. which adds warmth to the body helping soothe sore joints, producing an inner sense of calm and overall mood improvement.  

Engaging in 20-60 minutes of aquatic exercise, three days per week is optimal for building strength, coordination, and endurance. Taking the time to adequately stretch the body prior to aquatic exercise improves muscle viscosity and enhances joint mobility, preparing muscles and joints for exercise.

Exercise intensity and duration are easily adjustable when experiencing arthritic flares. The best time of day to engage in aquatics is mid to late morning. Early morning body stiffness when arising from bed is easily addressed with five to seven minutes with range-of-motion stretching. The online musculoskeletal and joint health platform offers customized self-paced stretching exercise routines that are safe and easy to follow.

Benefits of Aqua Fitness

  • Flexibility Helps maintain normal joint movement
  • Muscle Strength & Endurance Maintains or increases muscle strength and endurance
  • Increased Aerobic Capacity
  • Balance and Coordination Improves ability to maintain proper position during stationary and moving activities
  • Psychosocial Benefits Getting out of the house increases a feeling of well-being, decreases depression, and decreases isolation
  • Range of Motion Improves full movement potential of joint
  • Relaxation Decreases heart rate, lowers blood pressure, reduces stress, and decreases pain
  • Cardiorespiratory Endurance Helps strengthen the heart and makes the lungs more efficient

Predominant and Unique Water Properties

Buoyancy Water is buoyant. In the aquatic environment, buoyancy supports the body so there is less impact on joints resulting in less pain when in and out of the water. Foam bells and pool noodles are good examples of easy to use aquatic buoyancy equipment.

Hydrostatic Pressure The weight of the water pushing against all sides of the body decreases edema and improves breathing capacity even when out of the water. Hydrostatic pressure  further applies constant resistance to the body, continually signaling the nerve endings. Blood circulation is increased which reduces lactic acid and promotes detoxification in the blood.

Drag Causes resistance against the body in water (or land). Drag is always against the body’s direction of movement. As the resistance to motion increases, turbulence increases the workload on the core muscles. Exercise intensity increases water turbulence. For a more challenging workout, good resistance equipment includes webbed aquatic gloves and kickboards.

Pandemic Guidelines

Per CDC guidelines, there is no evidence that the Covid-19 virus is spread to people through swimming pool or spa water. Proper disinfection and maintenance with chlorine and bromine inactivate the virus in water.

Emotional and Physical Conditioning

Good physical and emotional health are the centerpieces of a rewarding life. Aquatic exercise positively benefits and improves the physical and emotional well-being of people in all age groups. Aquatics instills a sense of belonging and cohesion, building camaraderie among participants. Adjusting to exercising in water empowers people with arthritis to be active, happy participants in life, to socialize with friends, work longer well into their retirement, and remain healthier and more physically active. Empowerment builds confidence and understanding that they are in control of their health and lives. People can become their own best advocates and champions. Whether a positive decision to engage in a specialized arthritis aquatic program change stems from motivation or discipline, set your mind to achieving a lifestyle that integrates physical fitness and authentic and purposeful meaning.

People have the potential to realize their own abilities. Behavior-change interventions to elicit healthy behaviors, exercise included, promotes personal independence and healthier lifestyle. When change becomes a struggle, wellness counseling offers person-centered guidance, relying on clients to be the catalyst for their own growth. Encouraging support is available at to assist people living with arthritis to commit to good health and well-being.


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