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Swimming: The Joint-Friendly Exercise You Need

April 01, 2024

Swimming can be a viable workout for nearly anyone. Whatever your reason for taking to the water, swimming is one of the best exercises you can do for your health. This total body workout utilizes your arms, legs, and cardiovascular system with less stress on your joints than most other exercises. And on a hot summer day, the cool water is a good place to get sweaty.

Regular swimming is an excellent full-body workout. Swimming strengthens both the upper and lower body muscles, improves oxygen intake, and even helps to lose weight. It can make you more flexible, strengthen your core and improve your stamina and endurance. Swimming will also get your blood flowing more which will help stiff muscles.

Swimming has a host of health benefits. It’s a fun, low-impact and healthy way to get cardiovascular exercise. People of all ages, sizes and expertise can benefit from swimming. Because performing exercise in water can decrease the impact of body weight on your joints, swimming can be an ideal form of exercise for achieving many goals, ranging from heart health, weight loss, pain management and arthritis management. Less pain may lead to more time swimming and more calorie burning. 

Swimming treats the joints gently and it is easy to move in water. Kicks and strokes can improve muscle tone while endurance increases during long-term swimming. The muscles stretch and stay flexible because while swimming you are doing a lot of different movements. In water, it is easy to make moves that would be physically impossible on dry land.

When you swim, the water supports your body weight, allowing you to 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, you’re working your muscles and building up strength.

Water running and swimming are excellent options during rehabilitation because they do not strain the joints. In practice, water overrides the effects of gravity, so the joints do not have to be strained when moving in water. Naturally, the risk of injury also decreases. You don’t have to stop swimming as you age, you can swim in principle throughout life. 

Swimming strengthens the heart muscle over time. It also offers many other health benefits, since it burns a lot of calories, helps you sleep better, improves breathing and circulation, lowers blood pressure, helps manage stress, and boosts your mood. Plus, swimming is a workout that can be tailored to nearly anyone, regardless of health status or age. With swimming and other water workouts, you can easily modify the routine to lower the intensity when needed. 

Swimming has been shown to improve joint flexibility, limit stiffness, and improve mobility in those who have arthritis and similar conditions.

“Swimming is a great low-impact and joint-happy activity. Not only does swimming help engage almost all your body parts, but the water gives you buoyancy, so you’ll float through your exercise session without putting pressure on your joints,” said Miki Martin, PT, MBA, COMT Director, LiFT Wellness Center. “Swimming is a lifelong sport and people who swim regularly have lower heart rates, better blood pressure, improved breathing and overall improved circulation.”

Research shows how water fitness is beneficial not only for those with physical limitations but for everyone. Here are a few of the findings: 

  • A study of post-menopausal women showed that those who trained with water resistant equipment twice a week for 10 weeks improved their strength, reduced fat and increased lean body mass as well as those who trained in a gym. 
  • One study showed that older adults who participated three times/week for eight weeks in shallow water exercises with resistant equipment had improved balance and core stability. 
  • High intensity water exercise programs resulted in less inflammation, soreness and muscle damage compared to land high exercise programs.
  • A study done with hypertensive postmenopausal woman showed a decrease in systolic blood pressure with a 12-week water exercise program as compared with a control group.
  • A study done in 2016, showed a significant decrease in the A1C levels of people with Type 2 Diabetes who participated in a 12-week water exercise program for 45 minutes 3 times a week.

“Swimming is really an underappreciated form of exercise,” said Martin. “Exercise needs to involve large muscle groups, be rhythmical in nature and it should tax cardiovascular functions. Swimming fits that perfectly.”

Our Aquatic Therapy therapists treat patients in the therapeutic environment of the pool. The natural qualities of water provide support, buoyancy, and resistance which make for an ideal therapy environment. The warm temperature of Aquatic Therapy is especially soothing for patients with arthritis, fibromyalgia or low back pain.

To find out more information about our aquatic services, check out our websites for: LiFT Wellness Center and LiFT Therapy.