Exercise and arthritis: Keep moving to keep joints happier
If arthritis is causing pain, don’t shy away from physical activity. Surprisingly, it’s good to exercise when you have arthritis.
When the soreness of arthritis is holding you back, the thought of swimming laps or walking might make you cringe.
Exercise and arthritis are not natural enemies, however. Regular moderate exercise can actually ease arthritis pain. Exercise can also help decrease fatigue; strengthen muscles and bones; increase flexibility and stamina; and improve your general sense of well-being.
Here’s why: A lack of physical activity means the muscles supporting your joints get weaker, which in turn causes more stress on your joints. When joints are painful, in the long term you want to create conditions that help them function better, not worse.
Always talk to your doctor to see what kind of exercise fits with your treatment plan. Here are some arthritis and exercise guidelines to help you start working exercise into your routine:
Take it easy: You don’t want to injure yourself.
Mix it up.
Include flexibility, strengthening and cardiovascular exercises. In other words, don’t rely only on stretching, lifting weights or walking — you need a combination of all three types of physical activity.
Stretching is a great exercise for arthritis because it can increase flexibility, which can help ease joint pain. Do stretching exercises every day to ease stiff joints and muscles. Flexibility around the joints is especially important when trying to complete daily tasks such as buttoning a shirt or starting the car. Your doctor or physical therapist can recommend daily stretches that will address your needs. Gentle stretching and yoga help improve flexibility.
Don’t forget strength training.
Strength training can involve using weights or resistance bands, or even just your own body with no extra equipment (for example, pushups). Google or search YouTube for gentle strength-training routines you can do at home. The best online exercise programs explain how to modify an exercise to adjust for your fitness level, or vulnerable joints such as hips, knees or your lower back. They’ll also explain the proper form (physical positioning) for each exercise, which is important to avoid overtaxing your joints and avoiding injury.
Get a cardio boost.
Cardiovascular exercises help with your overall fitness by helping you control your weight and giving you more stamina. That way you’ll have more energy to get through your day. Cardio (aerobic) activities raise your heart rate and keep you moving for an extended period of time. Cardiovascular exercise includes activities such as walking, riding a bike, swimming or using an elliptical or rowing machine.
Keeping joints healthy is an important part of well-being in the senior years. My Southern Health offers more inspiration about aging well.