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Arthritis and water exercise

Key Message

The health benefits of exercising in water include: Increased muscle strength, enhanced sense of wellbeing, mood and sleep quality, decreased fear of general exercise, Improved oxygen intake, improved flexibility, reduction in body fat, and no exercise related injuries.


Better Health Channel. (2009) Arthritis and water exercise. Fact Sheet. Melbourne, Australia: Author.


Arthritis is a general term describing over 100 different conditions that cause pain, stiffness and often inflammation in one or more joints. Regular gentle exercise can improve an arthritic joint by nourishing the cartilage and easing stiffness.

Warm water exercise (hydrotherapy) is particularly helpful, because your body weight is supported and the resistance of moving through water boosts muscle strength and endurance. Activities such as stretching or walking through water can exercise the joints without putting them under strain.


The benefits of warm water exercise
A Japanese study published in 2002 found that water exercise improved the health of elderly participants. In this study, women between the ages of 60 and 75 years were divided into two groups. One group participated in water exercise for 12 weeks, while the other didn’t.

The health benefits highlighted in the study for those who exercised in water included:
• Increased muscle strength
• Enhanced sense of wellbeing, mood and sleep quality
• Decreased fear of general exercise
• Improved oxygen intake
• Greater flexibility
• Loss of excess body fat
• Increased agility
• No exercise-related injuries.

There is a wide range of warm water exercises to choose from, including:
• Arthritis Victoria warm water exercise program – offers classes each week in various Melbourne metropolitan locations. The program is specifically designed for people with arthritis.
• Hydrotherapy – a type of exercise therapy offered by physiotherapists. Classes may offer group sessions or one-on-one training. The water for hydrotherapy sessions is usually heated to around 34°C.
• Gentle water exercise – some fitness or recreation centres offer gentle water exercise programs for people who are elderly, disabled or unfit.
• Gentle aquarobics – some fitness or recreation centres offer water exercise classes that aim to improve general fitness. Because aquarobics exercises can be more vigorous than hydrotherapy, the water is usually heated to around 28°C.

Additional Information

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