Everyone knows that exercise is an important part of staying healthy. Anyone with arthritis, however, can tell you that when your joints say no to exercise, it goes from a pleasurable activity to a trial of how much pain you can stand.
A person suffering from arthritis tends to keep his joints as motionless as possible. This leads to a weakening of the muscles and tendons and a stiffening of the joints, which makes the pain even worse. It is a self-defeating cycle that is difficult to break.
One solution is offered by the Arthritis Foundation Aquatics Program, a warm water exercise program. Why warm water? The warmth of hot water allows the muscles to relax and increases the circulation of blood to the joints. In fact, since the discovery of the first hot springs, humans have used the wonder of warm water soaks to fight aching joints.
Besides reducing joint pain, water supports the weight of the body, making exercise easier, safer, and relaxing. In addition, the resistance that water provides as your body exercises in it helps strengthen the muscles.
These days, with spas, health clubs, and back yard hot tubs, just about everybody has access to a pool of hot water for relaxation. Not only does a hot tub soak bring immediate relief to the symptoms of arthritis, it also provides a great environment for exercise.
However, you should always consult with your doctor before beginning any exercise program, even water exercise. While water exercise is completely safe for most people, there are a few exceptions. If you’ve had serious joint damage or replacement surgery, you may be one of them. Your doctor will know what’s best for you. Also, be careful with the temperature, and keep the water between 83 and 88 degrees Fahrenheit, which is ideal for exercise. Anything over 100 degrees may be relaxing but lead to overheating. After you get the doctor’s go ahead, it’s time to start.
You can read about the Arthritis Foundation Aquatics Program in the free brochure Water Exercise: Pools, Spas and Arthritis from the Arthritis Foundation. Classes are often given at local pools nationwide. You can contact your local Arthritis Foundation office for more information. The classes are led by trained instructors and usually last about an hour. They’re held two or three times a week.
With a doctor’s guidance, a water exercise program at home or a local pool is a fun and effective way to combat arthritis pain and keep your joints and muscles flexible.