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Osteoarthritis Health Center

Can the New Wave of Watery Workouts Help Your Arthritis?

Water exercise can be beneficial to many people -- young and old.
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Who Can Benefit From Water Exercise? continued...

Also not at issue is the ability to swim: Most water workouts consist of exercise done in a vertical position (with the bonus of keeping your hair dry).

Water's buoyancy accommodates both the fit and unfit. Water cushions stiff and painful joints or fragile bones that might be injured by the impact of land exercises. When immersed to the waist, your body bears just 50% of its weight; immersed to the chest, it's 25%-35%; and to the neck, 10%. In addition, says See, the lower gravity promotes the return of blood to the heart from the extremities.

While water significantly reduces exercise's impact to the back and joints, running and other vertical shallow-water exercises do cause some impact. That's one reason experts advise wearing shoes. "Initially, any type of shoe will work," says See. "You don't want to invest a lot of money when you start an exercise program." For starters, she suggests lightweight sneakers such as Keds. "Once you get hooked on water, which usually takes a couple of weeks, invest in a better shoe."

Water provides at least 12 times greater resistance than air, and in every direction. "No matter which way you move, it challenges you," says Katz. "You don't need equipment, you don't need an Olympic-sized pool. All you need is your body."

Water cools your body and prevents overheating. See points out that even in 80- to 85-degree water, the recommended temperature for exercise, you should warm up in the water before your workout to prevent injury. Just as with a land workout, you will sweat during water exercises, so it's important to drink water.

Intimidation may not be the first thing you think of when you consider the differences between land and water exercise. But it's important, because concern about appearance or proper technique prevents many people from being physically active.

"Water is democratic," says See. "Once you're in the pool, we're all the same. There's less intimidation than walking into an aerobics studio surrounded by mirrors. You don't have to wear a swimsuit. If you're more comfortable, wear Lycra pants and a T-shirt. And it doesn't matter if you're on the wrong foot. As long as you're moving, you're getting the benefit."

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