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Water Exercises For Seniors With Arthritis

May 27, 2021

If you’re suffering from osteoarthritis, things like water trampolines, underwater stationary bikes, and water treadmills can help your knees, hips, and back feel better. And more and more studies are backing it up.

Studies show that exercise is beneficial for relieving symptoms caused by osteo and rheumatoid arthritis.  Researchers say that regular physical activity improves joint functioning, reduces symptoms like fatigue, leads to a lower risk of being hospitalized, and decreases the likelihood of developing chronic diseases associated with inflammatory arthritis, like heart disease. And pool exercises have the same impact.

So, let’s take a look at some water exercises for seniors with arthritis that may improve YOUR quality of life.

Underwater Treadmill

An underwater treadmill mimics the feeling you get when you're running on land, but reduces the stress of body weight on your joints and provides resistance. It’s a great thing to do if you’re trying to get back in shape, bouncing back from an injury, or are battling osteoarthritis. Training on an underwater treadmill has myriad benefits.

In fact, one recent study found that underwater jogging can have a significant impact on pain and function when it comes to osteoarthritis.



The results show that underwater treadmill jogging can help to alleviate the symptoms of osteoarthritis of the knee. Therefore, the exercise used in this study can be considered as a new, very useful and low-cost exercise method in improving pain intensity, function and quality of life in the elderly with knee osteoarthritis.

It is thought that the combination of an increase in fluid resistance, warm water, and unloading of the joints work together to create beneficial effects. You may experience a more normal walking pattern, better balance, and less risk for falls.  

Your regular underwater exercises will lead to a buildup of the muscles around your knees, which helps improve joint function. Your exercise program will also help to improve your lung function, which will decrease your post-exercise heart rate and fatigue. That’s due, in part, to hydrostatic pressure (or how hard the water pushes against the pool’s walls). Your heart rate will be lower by about 10 to 15 beats per minute when running in water than at the same exertion on land.

Underwater Bike

Riding an underwater stationary bike allows you to achieve the same benefits as an underwater treadmill, with even less stress on your joints. Because you’re sitting, your feet and knees aren’t experiencing any impact at all. This allows you to target your leg muscles and eliminates your walking pattern altogether.

One study found that 12 weeks of water cycling (twice a week for 45 minutes per session) had a positive effect on reducing pain and improving function in the elderly with osteoarthritis of the knee.


Another study published in the Journal of Rheumatology found both cycling exercise training and swimming significantly reduced joint pain, stiffness and physical limitations, and enhanced quality of life in middle-aged and older adults with osteoarthritis.


If riding a bike or jogging underwater isn’t your thing, you can get your exercise in the water the old-fashioned way — swimming.

Swimming is also great for relieving joint pain. One study suggests that swimming is just as effective as aqua cycling or an underwater treadmill for knee osteoarthritis.



Another study found that regular swimming exercise can exert similar or even superior effects on blood flow and heart health when compared with land-based cycling exercises in people with osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis can often increase your risk of developing cardiovascular disease, especially if you’re not moving as much.

Talk To Your Doctor

Your water exercise classes then lead you down a healthier path. Not only will you gain the strength you need to strengthen muscles, but you’ll also lessen joint pain and stiffness, improve your range of motion, and make your heart stronger, too.

The first thing you should do is talk to your doctor. If you have arthritis, your doctor can help pinpoint underwater exercises that are right for you. You can also download our guide “The Most Concerning Health Issues For Older Adults” to learn what other steps you should be taking to avoid health issues that can develop as you age.

Avoid the Disease That Affects 25% of All Older Adults