Exercise and Arthritis
Exercise is vital for people living with arthritis. It not only increases strength and flexibility, but can help reduce joint pain and combat fatigue. Although stiff and painful joints might make the thought of walking around the block or swimming a few laps seem overwhelming, remember that even moderate exercise can ease your pain and help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
Weight loss associated with exercise is important, because every extra pound you gain puts four times the stress on your knees. The flip side, however, is that even a small amount of weight loss will give your knees relief, as every one pound of weight lost results in four pounds of pressure being taken off each knee.
Always confer with your doctor first before embarking on a new exercise program. He or she can best show you how exercise can fit into your current treatment plan, and what types of exercises are best for your type of arthritis. But following are some suggestions for those with arthritis to help incorporate exercise into their lives:
- Jump in for a swim. Aquatic exercises allow you to keep doing many of the exercises you love, while taking a load off your joints. You can check your local area for places such as the YMCA or other similar centers and ask if they offer such classes. You can also visit the National Arthritis Association’s website and try to find information for these available classes in your area.
- Take a hike. Hiking burns calories, strengthens muscles and builds denser bones, while providing interesting scenery and the soothing, relaxing benefits of breathing fresh air and observing nature.
- Yoga and other forms of gentle exercise like Pilates and Tai Chi strengthen the mind-body connection, allowing you to get your body fit while you get your mind in shape. These exercises keep joints strong and muscles limber while erasing stress.
- Strength training is a great way to boost your metabolism and get a sleeker physique, too. Research also shows lifting weights creates denser bones and builds stronger muscles that help stabilize and protect joints.
- Avoid high impact exercises. Research shows pounding exercises like kickboxing, step aerobics and more can be tough on joints. Switch to low-impact activities like biking and swimming that offer the same calorie-burning benefits without the painful pounding.
- Strengthen your core by working your abs. Strong abdominals are essential to creating overall core strength and balance. Studies show that improving strength and balance are key to preventing falls and protecting joints from damage.
- Always warm up before beginning any exercise. Start slowly and get up to speed only after your muscles and joints have at least five minutes prep time.
- Remember to stretch often. Stretching after workouts is a must, but take breaks throughout the day, including at your office, to stretch and get re-energized and help keep your muscles and ligaments flexible and strong.
- Brace yourself. Elbow, wrist and joint braces, or guards, not only prevent injury but also reduce the load on joints. Consult your doctor about braces that may alleviate some of your joint stress.
- Relax after a workout. A warm bath, a soak in a Jacuzzi or some time in a sauna or steam room can soothe aching muscles and joints after a workout. Just don’t spend too long and overheat and be certain to keep well-hydrated during and after a workout.