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Water Fitness


Updated May 20, 2010

When exercise is painful because of aching joints, seniors often give up their exercise program, causing their physical condition to decline even further. "It's very easy to get trapped in a downward spiral of inactivity with deconditioning and then further pain and discomfort from weakness," says University of Alabama at Birmingham geriatrician Andrew Duxbury, M.D. When traditional exercise is painful, he offers two tips.

"First, pain medication should be taken about half an hour prior to exercise so it is peaking in the system during exercise. Second, water exercise and water aerobics can be very useful. The water supports the weight of the body, taking it off painful knees and hips and making it much easier to exercise them thoroughly and increase muscle tone."

Before Your Start Water Exercise

A checkup is always recommended when starting any new exercise program. If you have recently had surgery or any serious illness that could affect your endurance or balance, you should get clearance from your physician. Any open or draining wounds from surgery may also delay the start of such a program. Your physician may also give you guidelines for your exercise routine, including target heart rates and warning signs that can let you know you have overdone it.

Find a friend to exercise with. It is never wise to be in a pool by yourself at any time, but the risks are much greater if you are engaging in strenuous activities. An exercise buddy can call for help if needed.

Where To Exercise

If you have a pool, your exercise room is as close as your back yard. Unfortunately, in many parts of the country, backyard pools cannot be used year-round because of the weather. A heated pool is much better, especially for those seniors who have stiff and painful joints from arthritis. The warm water will make the exercise routine much easier.

Many cities have a YMCA or other community organization with indoor heated pools. Call these organizations for information about open swim times. Many also offer organized water aerobic classes with trained instructors. Many people do better in a structured class environment than they would do on their own. Other class members can offer encouragement and fellowship along with the exercise.

Water Exercise Instruction

If you have the correct facility and want to exercise on your own or with a friend in a less structured fashion, you will still need to know how to exercise. There are several resources available on the web and through exercise videos that will guide you through a water workout for any level of fitness.


Interview with Andrew Duxbury, M.D., geriatrician at the University of Alabama at Birmingham

Additional Resources
  1. About.com
  2. Health
  3. Senior Health
  4. Healthy Living
  5. Exercise
  6. Water Exercise for fitness and pain relief

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