If you have your own pool, a physical therapist can design an exercise program that is best for you. The Arthritis Foundation also offers a videotape called “Pool Exercise Program,” a 50-minute workout routine. Find the tape at the Foundation’s website.

You Don’t Have to Crawl to Swim
When most people think of swimming, they think of the Australian crawl. But for people with arthritis, the range of motion required to do this movement is often too painful for their shoulders.

The best strokes for people with arthritis are the breaststroke, the sidestroke and the elementary backstroke, in which the arms stay underwater.

A swimming instructor can help you modify your strokes so they are most beneficial and pain is minimal.

Getting Started
You may not need everything on this list (aside from the swimsuit!), but it’s fairly complete.

Swimsuit: Pick one that slips on and off easily. For women, one-piece suits with criss-crossed straps are the best. For men, boxer or brief suits are fine so long as the elastic doesn’t constrict the waist or legs.

Swim cap: In most aquatics classes, your head won’t go underwater so you won’t need a cap unless the pool requires it. If you plan to swim,

you’ll likely want a cap.
Gym bag: Get one with a shoulder strap so you don’t have to grasp it with stiff hands.
Pool shoes: A pair of slip-ons with rubber soles will keep you from slipping on wet surfaces outside the pool.
Towel: Some gyms have towel service. If yours doesn’t, bring one.
Dressing aids: If you need devices to pull on socks or comb your hair, bring them.
Plastic bag: You’ll need it to place your wet suit in after swimming.

Loose-fitting cover-up: Wear a sweatsuit or an oversized T-shirt and loose-fitting pants. Padlock: You may want to stow your gear in a locker; if so, bring a padlock. If your hands are too stiff to work a lock, ask to share a locker with a friend.

Water Exercise: It’s the Best
Doctors, physical therapists and trainers most often recommend aquatics as the best type of exercise for nearly everyone, regardless of physical

condition. That’s because the risk of injury is minimal in such a buoyant atmosphere.
As always, check with your doctor before trying a new exercise program. And if you get the go-ahead — take the plunge! The water’s great!

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