When your joints hurt and your energy levels are low, you may not want to exercise. Exercise is important for your health. It is even more important if you have Rheumatoid arthritis.

The America Heart Association recommends that most people get 150 minutes of cardiovascular exercise per week. Swimming offers a way to move your body and get your exercise in without putting extra stress on sore joints, making it a highly recommended option for people with RA.

Whether you are a complete beginner or more advanced, working out in the water can be tailored to your needs.

Read on to find out why swimming is the fourth most popular form of cardiovascular exercise in the United States and the benefits of swimming for rheumatoid arthritis.

Swimming can benefit the person.

Reduces muscle and joint soreness and stiffness

Swimming helps to promote blood flow and circulation. When blood flows more freely through your body, it helps deliver more oxygen and nutrients to your muscles and joints.

“The water can allow you to stretch and move your muscles in ways that you wouldn’t normally be able to do while out of the water.”

Lowers risk of cardiovascular disease

Swimming helps you improve your overall cardiovascular health.

Studies show that RA is a well-recognized cardiovascular risk factor, which means that taking steps to improve your overall fitness level, such as swimming, can help lower your risk.

Provides weightless relief for joints

Unlike running, jogging, or even walking, swimming puts little to no additional strain on your joints and muscles, since the water supports 90 percent of your weight. There is no jolt from impact with the ground when you’re swimming.

If you have moderate to severe arthritis and have trouble with other exercise routines that do not protect the joints, swimming can be a great choice.

Improves muscle strength and support

While many consider swimming a cardio workout, it can help build muscle strength as well. Water offers more resistance than air, which means your muscles have to work harder to move you through the water.

Maintaining strong muscles can help with the disease. When you keep your muscles strong through regular exercise, they can help keep your joints in place and prevent your RA from getting worse.

Swimming is one of the water-based activities that you can try to stay active. You could try some water-based exercises.

  • Water walking. Go for a walk in waist to chest deep water. For added challenge, try doing a lap forward and then walking backward or picking up the pace.
  • Water jogging. Water jogging is a simple exercise where you mimic jogging or running in place, typically in deeper water. Though advanced joggers can do this without equipment, you may find that you benefit from getting a flotation belt that gives you a bit more buoyancy. Some gyms or health spas may have ones you can use.
  • Water aerobics. Water aerobics typically involve several of the moves you might do during a land-based aerobics class, just modified for water. You can often find gyms that offer water aerobics as a class. You can expect to do a full body workout that includes arms, legs, and midsection.

Before you start working out, make sure to talk with your doctor. They can give you guidance based on your health so that you can start exercising safely.

“Once you get your doctor’s clearance, there are some tips to help you get started.”

  • Look for a heated pool. The Arthritis Foundation recommends exercising in warm water that’s between 83 and 90°F (28 and 32°C) for optimal pain relieving benefits. Check with local pools, fitness centers, or physical therapy facilities to see if they are heated or offer programs for people with arthritis.
  • Hydrate regularly. It is difficult to tell when you sweat in the pool, so make sure you take breaks as needed to drink some water or other fluids, and be sure to pack some for after.
  • Don’t push through joint pain. Even though water exercises provide decent joint relief, you may still experience pain. If you do, it is better to stop than to push through. You can talk with your doctor about what is and is not typical pain during exercise.
  • Come prepared. You don’t typically need much equipment for swimming or water exercises, but some things you might want to include in your bag include goggles, swim or pool shoes for traction, flotation devices (noodles or kick boards), and bottles for drinking water.

Swimming and water-based exercises can help with your health. One of the main advantages of land-based exercises is that they are near weightlessness which helps take stress off the joints.

Swimming offers a combination of strength and cardio training that can help reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, increase muscle strength and joint support, and help prevent disease progression.