The best way to start with pool exercises for arthritis

Liz Villalta

In an interview for Good Health Magazine, MD of Hydro Functional Fitness, Dr Sophie Heywood covered off a checklist of how to start in the pool including keeping safe around slippery surfaces, rehydrating and choosing the best option for you. Sophie was quoted in the article outlining several options for how to get started:

• Join an aqua fitness class and take it easy. "Know that you don't have to work as hard as everyone else. Even if you just march on the spot for half the time, that's totally fine."

• Go to a pool and walk up and down for 10 to 15 minutes. "Again, take it nice and slow. That's going to give the lowest load for your joints."

• You could add some squats and calf raises. Start with small, slow movements in deeper water. This puts the least load on your joints. Don't stay in the pool longer than 15 or 20 minutes the first couple of times. After a few weeks, you can try moving into shallower water.

• For a more structured individualised programme, see a physio for specific advice. Seeing a health professional – like your GP or physio – is also recommended if you haven't been active or have other medical concerns.

Professor Rana Hinman from the University of Melbourne was also interviewed in this article and she says if you have arthritis, it's ideal to get a programme that's tailored to your needs. "Arthritis affects everyone differently, and some people may benefit more from strengthening exercises while others may benefit more from functional exercises or a programme designed to increase cardiovascular fitness," she explains. There are many options, including individual or group classes supervised by physiotherapists, group classes at your local pool, or making up your own programme. 

The key is consistency says Professor Hinman.

"Find the option that suits you best," she says.

"The benefits of exercise only come with doing the exercise, so it's really important you stick to your aquatic exercise programme and perform it regularly."

She says that you don't need to be able to swim to do aquatic exercise. However, she advises non-swimmers to start out under the supervision of a qualified professional.

She adds that water exercise is safe for most people. You should seek a health professional before starting if you have:

  • Recently undergone surgery (such as a joint replacement)
  • Have an open wound, skin condition or current infection
  • Have an uncontrolled heart condition, heart disease or uncontrolled high blood pressure.

To read more about Hydrotherapy and how to start with pool exercises follow this link to the Australian Physiotherapy Association website or for the full  Good Health magazine article you can see an online version republished in NZ here