How and Why to Keep Up Exercise
Exercise is one of the best ways to help arthritis; preventing it from getting worse by increasing blood flow, strengthens muscles surrounding joints, promoting joint flexibility, promotes bone strength, increases tolerance for pain, promoting weight management and balance and a myriad of other physical and psychological benefits. Unfortunately, the pain associated with arthritis is the number one reason most arthritis sufferers end their physical activities and exercise routines. But here begins the circular problem: a patient with arthritis feels pain when exercising, so he or she stops exercising, which results in an increase of arthritis symptoms caused by the decrease in physical activity. This pattern must be broken.
Therefore, the best answer to help arthritis sufferers exercise through their symptoms is to explore different exercise options to reduce pain that may come from physical activity. This can involve participating in different types of exercises that won’t irritate arthritis symptoms as much such as swimming, bicycle riding or chair or underwater aerobics. There could be equipment modifications made to help arthritis sufferers more comfortably participate in physical activities such as modified grips on tennis rackets or golf clubs. Here are a few types of exercises that are particularly helpful for people dealing with arthritis as they work to maintain an active life:
Stretching: Participating in morning and evening stretching can be extremely helpful in helping to loosen joints, relieve tension and pain and retain or even regain a healthy range of motion for your joints. Your doctor or physical therapist can recommend a stretching sequence to best meet your needs to include range of motion stretching and more intensive stretching as appropriate.
Aerobics: Seek out comfortable ways to participate in aerobic exercises, but make certain that you incorporate aerobic fitness in your exercise routine. Swimming, cycling, walking and even participating in some low impact sports such as kayaking, golfing and a leisurely game of tennis can work. Ensuring that your cardiovascular health and fitness is maintained along with addressing weight management is essential in helping to reduce symptoms of arthritis and prevent rapid progression of symptoms.
Strength Building: Explore low impact strength building exercises. Check with your doctor or physical therapist about the best strength-building exercises for you, which can include everything from exercise bands to aquatic weights and other resistance workouts. This is helpful in maintaining bone density, muscle strength and joint health.
Alternatives: Consider participating in Tai Chi or yoga, and be certain that your instructors understand your medical condition and that modification may be necessary to help you be successful and comfortable in these classes. The benefits of participating in these activities are wonderful in promoting flexibility, increased blood flow, balance and body awareness.
- When exercising with arthritis, warming up is even more crucial to prevent pain and injury.
- Do stretch, but even before that, consider applying hot compresses such as warm hot towels to bothersome joints to help relieve pain and loosen tension.
- Be aware of how your body is feeling when you exercise, and go more slowly with lower intensity to help prevent injury and avoid pain.
- “No pain, no gain” does not apply to you—slow and steady is a much more sustainable approach that will give you longer-term successful results.
- Know your limits, and empower yourself to stop and rest or stop and end for the day whenever needed.
- Remember that as important as warming up is, so is cooling down, and end your exercise with slow, gentle movements and stretches; connect with your body and your breath.
- Develop a regular routine with dedicated times and activities to help sustain the habit. Begin a walking routine with a friend and don’t skip any walks.
- Also, end your routine by icing your joints to reduce swelling and maintain comfort post-workout.
- Consider getting relaxation or gentle therapeutic massages to help with muscle and joint conditioning and relaxation.
- Begin now—the best time to start is right away, begin slowly, develop a routine and consult with your doctor or physical therapist on the best exercises for you.
Remember, unless you have the will to begin an exercise program to help your arthritis, you’ll never begin. Commit to doing it for 2 months and see for yourself the results you get. It may surprise you to notice you have less