The information about water exercises is encouraging. The CDC notes that swimmers have half the risk of death compared with inactive people. A study from Indiana University found that actively swimming as an older adult can actually delay the aging process for decades. WebMD calls water exercise “the easiest workout for people with fibromyalgia pain.” Just what are water exercises and what are their benefits for chronic pain?
What are water exercises?
Water exercises refer to a number of different activities that include:
- Water aerobics, which are generally group classes that rely on similar exercises to those we perform on land, such as leg raises, kicks, and curls
- Water running and walking, which uses the same forms of walking and running on land
- Water treading, which is a major cardiovascular exercise that is simple to do at any time
- Lap swimming, which refers to the normal swimming of laps that most people think of when they think of water exercise
A variety of water exercises are particularly important for chronic pain patients because water exercise relies on three key factors: buoyancy, resistance, and assistance. Buoyancy allows people to exercise with less effort. Resistance helps build muscle strength and endurance. Finally, assistance allows exercisers to do comfortable, passive stretches.
Let’s look at even more benefits of water exercises for chronic pain.
Benefit one: Non-impact exercise option
Water exercises are a great workout option because they provide a non- or very-low-impact option for working out. For those with hip, knee, or leg pain, water exercises can allow your body to relieve pain and build muscle without causing more damage. Many athletes actually use water exercises to help them heal after an injury.
Benefit two: Helps you beat the heat
Right now, we’re all looking for a way to beat the Vegas heat. Performing your workouts in a pool, rather than outdoors, allows you to keep up with your routine without facing severe–and potentially dangerous–temperatures. Plus, you don’t have to worry about sweating in the pool!
However, many experts do recommend exercising in a moderately heated pool. A pool that’s just around 89 degrees will be most beneficial as it won’t cause your muscles to tense up with cold, but will also be warm enough to exercise in. For those with fibromyalgia, it’s even more important to look for a heated pool if you are especially intolerant of cold.
Benefit three: Strengthens muscles through resistance training
Research has consistently shown that moderate exercise can help relieve and reduce chronic pain symptoms. By strengthening muscle, you can help relieve pressure, inflammation, and tenderness.
Water exercises rely on the natural resistance of water to build muscle. In fact, the University of North Carolina reports that water is 1,000 times more resistant than air. Exercising in the pool, then, makes full use of this “drag” to help you build muscle strength and endurance all over your body.
Benefit four: Helps you manage mood and stress levels
Water exercises can promote mental health in a number of ways. Attending group classes allows for socializing and a way to find group support. Many people also find the water to be a relaxing, if not a bit playful, activity to indulge in. This can help relieve stress and tension from the day.
Because of these effects, WebMD reported that:
“In one 12-week study, women who exercised in warm water — for 60 minutes, 3 times a week — reported improved physical and mental well-being. They also had less fibromyalgia pain and more vitality. As for their state of mind, they reported feeling less depressed, and more sociable.”
Benefit five: Works great for chronic pain patients
One of the greatest benefits of water exercises is its ability to help chronic pain patients. Patients can find safe and comfortable exercises in the pool that allow them to relieve pain.
Water exercises are particularly helpful for:
- Arthritis pain
- Hip and knee pain
- Fibromyalgia pain
As noted, WebMD considers water exercises one of the best forms of exercise for fibromyalgia patients. When it comes to arthritis, the CDC also notes that:
“For people with arthritis, it improves use of affected joints without worsening symptoms. People with rheumatoid arthritis have more health improvements after participating in hydrotherapy than with other activities. Water-based exercise also improves the use of affected joints and decreases pain from osteoarthritis.”
Warnings for water exercises
While there are many benefits to water exercises, it’s important to know some basic guidelines before starting out with any workout routine.
Make sure to:
- Talk to your doctor before beginning any new exercise program, including water exercises
- Avoid water exercises if you have a fever, severe heart failure, or any infection
- Look for heated pools that keep the water temperature above 90 degrees to keep blood circulation up
- Know your limits and ask for help when you need it
- Incorporate some additional land-based weight-bearing exercises if you suffer from osteoporosis, as water exercises won’t build bone density
Have you ever tried water exercises? What was your favorite part about this style of exercise?
Image by Jon Rawlinson via Flickr