An arthritis diagnosis doesn’t mean your exercise routine has to end. In fact, a consistent routine can actually improve mobility. Although stiff and painful joints can make it difficult to keep moving, staying active is essential for easing pain. October 11 is World Arthritis Day, so we asked Michelle Higgins, MPT at Renown Physical Therapy & Rehab some advice about exercising with arthritis.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, arthritis affects one in five adults and 300,000 children. As a matter of fact arthritis is the nation’s leading cause of disability. Your joints certainly don’t need to suffer when you exercise. In general exercise is actually necessary for those with arthritis. Not only does it reduce joint pain, but it also increases strength and flexibility. Furthermore those adopting a regular exercise routine also have more energy, deeper sleep and find it easier to maintain a healthy weight.
“Exercise is a necessary component to managing your arthritis,” says Higgins. “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.”
Exercising With Arthritis
Exercise truly is the most effective non-drug arthritis treatment available for reducing pain and improving movement. And it can even include daily activities like gardening, dancing or walking your dog. Of course talk to your doctor or physical therapist about what exercises fit into your specific treatment plan.
With this is mind, the four specific components below are important to an effective arthritis exercise program:
Range of motion
Moving joints through their full available range of movement is important. This frequently increases function and decreases joint stiffness and pain. For this reason, aim to complete these exercises daily. Examples include bending, straightening, and rotating specific joints, or static and dynamic stretching.
These exercises target muscles supporting and protecting our joints and bones. Strengthening is also necessary for weight control, so two-to-three sessions per week are recommended. In order to allow your body to adapt, begin with light resistance and start slow. Strength exercises include weightlifting and using resistance bands.
Low-impact aerobic exercise
Aerobic exercise is certainly necessary for overall well-being, weight management and heart health. Aim for two-to-three sessions a week. Low-impact exercises include walking, swimming, cycling, elliptical machine exercises and water aerobics.
Good balance is also vital for an effective arthritis program. On the positive side, solid balance prevents falls by increasing your ability to stay upright whether you are moving or sitting still. Likewise, it improves your confidence with walking and daily activities. In order to keep excellent balance, incorporate daily balance exercises. Examples of balance exercises include the use of an exercise ball, Tai Chi and exercises such as standing on one foot.
Start Slow, Finish Strong
As you begin your exercise program, remember to listen to your body. Start slowly – 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 which doesn’t go away with rest. Above all, incorporate fun and motivating activities so you’ll stick to them long term and improve your results.