Swimming: Good For Your Joints—And Your Heart

You know that aquatic therapy is a gentle but effective way to condition your joints, but research shows that you can swim your way to good heart health too. We list the physical benefits of this terrific low-impact exercise.


Swimming is a low-impact exercise that provides benefits regardless of age or weight. Even patients with painful joints due to arthritis or other conditions can take up swimming because water buoyancy is easier on their joints.

When a study by the State University of New York compared swimmers to non-swimmers, they found that swimmers enjoyed the following benefits:

  • Lower heart rates
  • Healthier blood pressure
  • Improved breathing
  • Better circulation

These advantages are good for joint health, and the demands of swimming on the upper body provide aerobic exercise for a healthy heart. You can expect to burn 400 to 500 more calories per hour when exercising in the water. Additionally, water offers 12 times the resistance of air, which helps to improve muscle strength. You can add even more resistance to your water routine with hand-held paddles and kickboards. The pool is also a great place to work on overall flexibility by performing stretches. Water workouts are ideal for weight loss, cardiac rehabilitation, and helping to preserve joint motion.

Many patients with arthritis find using a treadmill or bicycle too demanding. High-impact exercises can take too high a toll on painful joints. Even if they aren’t up to swimming laps, activities like water aerobics and shallow or deep water walking are good for joints and hearts.

You can find information about aquatic exercise classes at your local health club or recreation center. As with any exercise program, be sure to consult with your physician before you begin. You may just find that your aquatic program becomes your favorite way to vary your exercise routine, or cope with chronic joint pain.

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