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Swim, Swim, Swim for Your Joints and Heart

“No Pain, No Gain!”

Exercise culture is full of popular maxims that inspire, motivate… and sometimes hurt you. If you are returning from every jog with a limp or gritting through every jump shot of your pick-up game, the answer isn’t to simply embrace pain as part of the workout. Valerie Taraborelli, a physician assistant in orthopedic surgery at Banner Health in Arizona, suggested swimming as a great alternative sport or even as a way to rehab existing injuries.

High impact sports can speed up or worsen joint pain

“High impact activities do not necessarily precipitate arthritis, but they can certainly further the progression in those who already suffer from arthritis,” said Taraborelli. “Without adequate cartilage, excessive force can be applied through the joint and cause further damage.”

Of course, your favorite sports aren’t all bad. High-impact activities can be great for getting your heart rate up, they improve balance and may improve bone density when done safely. But there is a big difference between “strain” and “pain.” Listen to your body during and after you exercise. If you’re pushing through pain, your joints are asking for a low-impact option.

Easy on your joints

Swimming offers your joints mobility and exercise, without impact. A well-executed swimming workout will improve your range of motion and strengthen the muscles surrounding your joint.

“Whether you have a joint injury or are recovering from surgery, the water will allow you to stay active, maintain fluidity in your joints and activate multiple muscle groups,” said Taraborelli. “Swimming in warm water can be advantageous as this will allow for improved circulation that relaxes muscles and allows for safe execution of stretches and exercises.”

Wondering if your joint pain is something to worry about? Get answers by taking our Joint Pain Test.

Good for your heart

No matter your age or health, you can design a pool workout plan that pushes your cardiovascular limits and keeps your body moving. Regular swimming exercise has the power to lower your heart rate, improve your blood pressure, strengthen your lungs and heart and help your circulation. Whether you are suffering from joint pain or not, swimming is one of the best heart-wise exercises you can do. Learn more about your heart health by taking our Heart Age Test.

Some examples of high-impact activities include:
  • Running
  • Soccer
  • Basketball
  • Boxing
  • Racquetball/Tennis
  • HIIT/Crossfit workouts
Some examples of no- and low-impact sports include:
  • Swimming
  • Yoga
  • Cycling
  • Elliptical
  • Tai chi

Working out in the water

Swimming laps is a fantastic way to stay healthy, but it’s not the only way to make the most of your pool-time. Taraborelli recommended a few other water activities such as water walking, jogging and water aerobics.

Don’t let joint pain hold you back. Contact your doctor or a Banner Health provider and make a plan. You can learn more about treatments for joint pain in these similar articles:

Fitness Orthopedics Physical Therapy Heart Health