Get Moving: How to Exercise with Arthritis

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Stiff and painful joints make it difficult to keep moving, but it’s essential for easing pain and keeping active. Learn more about how to exercise with arthritis. 

Your joints don’t need to suffer when you exercise. In fact, exercise is necessary for those with arthritis because it helps reduce joint pain in addition to increasing strength and flexibility. Many people who adopt a regular exercise routine also experience more energy, better sleep and help in maintaining a healthy weight.

“Exercise is a necessary component to managing your arthritis,” says Michelle Higgins, MPT at Renown Physical Therapy & Rehab. “Consistent participation in an exercise program has been shown to promote long-term pain relief, increased body function and an improved quality of life. Alternatively, a lack of exercise can actually increase joint pain or stiffness and eventually lead to long term disability and suffering.”

Exercise is the most effective conservative arthritis treatment available. It can take many forms, including daily activities such as gardening, dancing or walking your dog. Talk to your doctor or physical therapist about what exercises would fit into your treatment plan. He or she can make recommendations based on what type of arthritis you have and which joints are involved. Many community-based group programs are available that may help you stay motivated and connected to others.

 

There are four specific components that should be included in all arthritis exercise programs.

Range of motion: These exercises help increase the ability to move joints through their full available range of motion. This increases function and decreases stiffness and pain. Examples include bending/straightening/rotating specific joints and static and dynamic stretching. Aim to complete these exercises daily.

Strengthening: These exercises target muscles that support and protect our joints and bones. Strengthening is also necessary for maintaining a healthy weight. Examples include weightlifting and resistance band exercises. Aim for completing two ti three sessions per week with focus on starting with light resistance and allowing your body to adapt and progress slowly.

Low-impact aerobic exercise: Aerobic exercise is necessary for overall well-being, weight control and cardiovascular health. Examples of low impact exercise include walking, swimming, cycling and elliptical and water aerobics. Aim for two-to-three sessions a week.

Balance: Good balance is critical to prevent falls by increasing your ability to maintain upright position whether you are moving or sitting still. It also improves your confidence with walking and daily activities. Examples of balance exercises include the use of an exercise ball, Tai Chi and exercises such as standing on one foot. Aim to complete these exercises daily.

As you begin your exercise program, remember to listen to your body. Start slow and gentle, as it can take several weeks for your body to adjust to exercise. Consult your doctor or physical therapist if you experience increasing pain or swelling that does not resolve with rest. Above all, try to incorporate activities that are motivating and fun to increase long-term participation and results.

Renown Physical Therapy & Rehab is now open on Robb Drive in addition to three additional locations in Reno and Sparks. To learn more about our physical therapy program, call 775-982-5001 or visit renown.org/PhysicalTherapy.

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