Imagine going on a moonwalk. You’re nearly weightless, and when you take a step, you barely touch the surface of the moon. You’re basically floating along.

For people with arthritis, this fantasy sounds like a dream come true. But it’s not just for the man (or woman) on the moon. Exercising in water can offer the same kind of buoyant experience.

Water exercise offers “the best of both worlds,” said Beth Baudendistel, aquatics instructor and a board member of the Arthritis Foundation.

“Water is thicker than air, so you get up to 50 times more resistance than you do on land,” she said. “And you don’t have the weight-bearing” impact that you would in a regular exercise class.

Benefits of Water Exercise
Like a moonwalk, water exercise allows movement without the pull of gravity on painful joints. Your body weighs 90 percent less than it does on land.

Muscles get stronger by pushing against the weight of the water. And the near weightless effect of being in the water allows greater range of motion for arms and legs.

This kind of gentle exercise leads to relaxation, another plus for bodies that are tense from pain. Decreased stress adds to quality of life and often means improved sleep patterns.

The benefits go on and on. Here are just a few more.

A firmer, trimmer body.
Stretching, strengthening and aerobic exercises can all be done in the water.
Increased social interaction — if you take a class.
Better coordination and posture.
During flare-ups, exercise is still possible.
Reduced pain while in the water.
Knowing How to Swim is Not a Requirement
Most water exercise classes are held in the shallow end of the pool, where the water is waist or chest deep. If you don’t have a class, you can just “jog” through the water at the shallow end to get a good workout.

Some people are afraid of the water, but fortunately, there are understanding instructors who will help you get past that fear.

Finding a Water Exercise Class

The first thing to do is call your nearest Arthritis Foundation chapter. Most chapters offer aquatics classes. These programs were developed by some of the nation’s leading experts in exercise for people with arthritis.

If the Arthritis Foundation-sponsored classes are full, try health clubs, community pools and even hospitals. Your physical therapist, doctor or the YMCA should be able to make suggestions.

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