Q: I am a 67 year old previously very active woman who has developed arthritis over the past 6 or 7 years. I was an athlete when I was younger, and even in my 50’s I was very active, and frequently ran in triathlons. This arthritis has really kicked my butt. I have gained weight from some of the medications, and many of the exercises that I previously enjoyed are not enjoyable at all, and actually cause pain which makes them not possible. I can’t run, and while I can do some of the machines at the gym, I find it hard to burn any significant calories. What would you recommend?
A: It can get difficult to exercise as you get older for a variety of reasons. Arthritis is certainly one of those diseases that cause secondary problems, such as weight gain, sometimes leading to diabetes. For people with arthritis there is one type of exercise that is consistently better than all of the others. That exercise is swimming. Because of the fluid dynamics of exercising in the water, it causes the least friction on joints. So, it will commonly cause the least amount of pain for people with arthritis, and causes the least amount of long term damage to joints. In addition, swimming laps actually burns calories at a good rate because you are using multiple muscle groups. So the answer for you is clearly, swimming.