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Is Swimming Good for Bad Knees?

by
author image Melissa McNamara
Melissa McNamara is a certified personal trainer who holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and communication studies from the University of Iowa. She writes for various health and fitness publications while working toward a Bachelor of Science in nursing.
Is Swimming Good for Bad Knees?
Swimming is good exercise for bad knees. Photo Credit Ryan McVay/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Swimming offers a low-impact workout if you have bad knees. Unlike weight-bearing activities that place stress on your knees as your feet hit the hard surface, swimming allows you to move through the water without placing much pressure on the knee. Most people can exercise longer in water without strenuous effort or joint pain.

Causes

Several sports-related movements can cause bad knees. Sudden stops, excessive flexing, and awkward landings after jumps, starts and pivots can all lead to knee injuries. Tennis, basketball, football and soccer are some of the sports that can lead to knee injury or overuse, which can cause knee pain. Swimming is usually easier on the knees, but avoid the butterfly stroke if you have bad knees.

Frequency

Swimming is considered a moderate-intensity aerobic exercise. To get adequate fitness benefits from swimming, swim a minimum of 150 minutes per week. This can be done in increments of 30 minutes for five days per week or whatever is most convenient and comfortable for you, as long as you meet your minimum requirements. For maximum health and weight benefits, gradually work toward swimming 300 minutes per week.

Benefits

Knee pain is a common complaint with arthritis. Swimming can reduce your joint stiffness, strengthen muscles around your joints, strengthen your bones and improve your overall fitness, according to the University of Washington Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine. Swimming can also improve symptoms of depression and decrease your risk of chronic illnesses, such as heart disease and cancer. Aquatic sports with friends and family can also provide aerobic benefits.

Considerations

If you choose to swim for bad knees, discuss your decision with your doctor or physical therapist to determine a routine appropriate for your fitness level and your knees. Your doctor may suggest stretches and strengthening exercises to do in combination with swimming. Not exercising stiff or painful knees can make the symptoms worse in the future.

You should not feel pain while you’re swimming; if you do, this is your body's way of signaling you to slow down or stop. Your muscles might feel a little sore after beginning a new swimming routine, but this will lessen as you continue your routine.

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