Brooklynites with Lupus Help Show Swimming’s Power to Ease Symptoms

Members of Lupus Cooperative of New York participate in Long Island University study

Swimming may help ease certain symptoms of lupus, according to a new masters’ thesis study by Long Island University (LIU) students and Dr. Anne Scott in the Department of Occupational Therapy.

Lupus participants doing during aquatic session

Although the study only involved 13 people, it was conclusive in finding that water exercises can lead to significant changes in:

  • overall physical health
  • bodily pain
  • the ability to complete activities requiring physical performance

Participants were in the pool for 45 minutes weekly over the course of 6 weeks, using stretching, balance, and gentle aerobic activities that engaged strength and mobility in the whole body.

Swimmers Declare Success

“It was excellent!” wrote one participant, who has had lupus for 13 years. “I benefited me a lot. I felt 100 percent better from when it started, because the level of joint pain was unbearable…by session four of the program I had NO joint pain at all! So the program was awesome for me.”

Stephen Edelstein and Adrienne Lynch

“I loved it,” wrote another, who said she would do the program again “in a heartbeat.” She reported feeling energetic and losing weight afterwards…”fantastic!”

And yet another participant said she would do the program again if she could “because it helped me with the arthritis and my lupus…I felt very good, and the pain that I had in my joints (left leg) subsided.”

Multiple Benefits

LIU Occupational Therapy Professor Dr. Anne Scott noted another benefit—the social one. “It is encouraging to note that members formed strong social bonds, which made the hard work of doing exercise fun.”

Salina Coleman, Layasha Mason and Adrienne Lynch

On the flip side, the study did not show that the swimming regimen could improve depression, fatigue, or other mental health and emotional issues common in people with lupus. The thesis notes that swim sessions that are longer or even include different exercises could possibly have these effects, however.

“In the fall [2010], we will have the opportunity to use a new approach-water Tai Chi and hope that with more sessions members may have even greater benefits from the Lupus Aquatic Program (LAP)!,” said Dr. Scott. This program will be funded by a grant from the LIU provost.

 Live in Brooklyn and interested in the Fall 2010
Tai Chi Aquatics program?

Email Brooklyn’s Lupus Cooperative of New York Outreach Coordinator
Kimberly Jocelyn at

Making It Happen

In addition to Dr. Scott and the students themselves—Sabrina Quiles, Serena Berman, Leah Deitel, and Zachary Nutongia, there was participation from Dr. Yasser Salem in the university’s Department of Physical Therapy.

The program and the research was made possible in part by the LIU-Dean Eckert Wellness Grant, which provided and covered the cost of use of the pool itself, an instructor, assistants, equipment, and T-shirts for participants. 

 Kate Anastasia and Tayumika Zurita with some of the occupational therapy students who worked on the project

Kate Anastasia and Tayumika Zurita with some of the occupational therapy students
who worked on the project

Lupus Aquatic Program Poster

Lupus Aquatic Program Poster (click to view PDF)