Swimming does a body good in a wide variety of ways. Not only does it burn calories, but a good pool workout also strengthens your bones and muscles and improves your flexibility. All of these things are good for your knees. Indeed, any swimming exercise that uses your lower body will help your knees. Harvard Medical School says that water supports up to 90 percent of your weight, reducing stress on your joints and allowing you to increase both range of motion and endurance with less pain and strain. Everybody in the pool!
Types of Water Exercise
You can strengthen you knees by regular swimming or by "running" in the pool. Water creates its own resistance, so simply moving your legs in the pool works as a strengthening and conditioning exercise. You can do laps while holding a kickboard, which isolates your legs. You also can use a regular running motion in the pool to strengthen your lower body, either by using a flotation device in the deep end or running in the shallow end. Although aqua aerobics conjures visions of older folks splashing in the water, such classes offers a great workout for your legs as well as your heart -- at any age.
Quads and Hamstring Exercise
The quad muscles on the top of your thighs and the hamstrings on the bottom of your thighs are key components for reducing stress and shock on the knee joint. As the Harvard site states, a proper balance of strength in the muscles hold a joint "in the most functional and least painful position." "Runner's World" recommends a pool exercise to stretch out and improve the range of motion in both your quads and hamstrings. Hold onto the side of the pool with one arm and face away from the wall. Flex your right foot so your toes are close to your shin. With your right knee slightly bent, sweep your foot forward to roughly a 90-degree angle. Your foot might even break the surface. Then sweep your foot backward while maintaining the slight knee bend. Do 10 reps with each leg.
If your main exercise activity is running, you know that the constant pounding your knees take can develop into a problem, sooner or later. But you can use cross-training, alternating running days with swimming days, to take the pressure off your knees while continuing to derive cardio and other benefits. You'll find that a "swimmer's high" is just as effective as a "runner's high" in releasing endorphins and improving mood. Perhaps even more effective, since you won't feel as body sore after a swim workout.
Knee Injuries and Chronic Conditions
If you suffer from arthritis in your knees, exercise in the water can help. A study published in the "Arthritis Care Research" journal, found that patients who exercised in the water did better in terms of pain relief and quality of life, than other test subjects who simply sat in the pool, did exercises on land or practiced relaxation techniques.. Water exercise also enhanced the use of knee and other joints affected by the bone-weakening condition known as osteoarthritis. If you have knee problems, check with your doctor or therapist before starting pool exercises for your knees. When you get the OK, dive right in and soak up the soothing benefits of water exercise on your body and mind.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Health Benefits of Water-Based Exercise
- Harvard Medical School: Exercise for Stronger Knees and Hips
- MagforWomen.com: Top 10 Benefits of Swimming
- Arthritis Care Research: A Randomized and Controlled Trial of Hydrotherapy in Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Runner's World: Wet Equity
Jim Thomas has been a freelance writer since 1978. He wrote a book about professional golfers and has written magazine articles about sports, politics, legal issues, travel and business for national and Northwest publications. He received a Juris Doctor from Duke Law School and a Bachelor of Science in political science from Whitman College.