We all know exercise has many health benefits, but what if you have arthritis? Many people who suffer with arthritic pain are reluctant to exercise in case it makes their condition worse. However, the benefits of working out are abundant and can even ease some of the symptoms.
To begin with, the endorphins released by a good exercise session can reduce your pain.
If you have excess weight to lose, exercise can help you achieve this and over time this will ease stress on your aching joints. Additionally, the stability, mobility and flexibility you can gain can also ease all of your symptoms.
There’s no single exercise that has proven to be the magic bullet however, but instead a mix of different exercises seem to have the most benefits. By switching between different types of exercise it is more likely to keep your muscles and surrounding tissues strong, crucial to maintaining support for your bones.
Ready to get started? Here’s our top 4 great ways to work out with arthritis;
These exercises are thought to relieve stiffness and increase your ability to move your joints through the full range of motion they were designed to do. These exercises should include movements like shoulder rolls, raising your arms over your head, stretching and movements that take joints through their full span. A great way to incorporate this is using dance classes like Zumba or something slightly gentler like Tai Chi. In most cases, doing these types of exercises daily can help maintain and improve the flexibility in the joints.
These types of exercises help improve and maintain muscle strength. Strong muscles are needed to support and protect joints that are affected by arthritis. Using a resistance band is a great way to build muscle and give the body a challenge using your body weight. Pilates or Yoga stretches the spine and strengthens muscles. Furthermore, using deep breathing and stress relieving techniques promotes a healthy immune system and can reduce joint inflammation.
It may also be a good idea to seek out support from a physical therapist for a specific weight training programme. Weight training can help you to maintain or increase your muscle strength, focusing on specific muscle groups. With a good programme you will avoid over exertion exercising the same muscle groups two days in a row.
When starting a strength-training program, a three-day-a-week program is recommended to help you jump-start your improvement, and then maintaining two days a week after that point.
Aerobic or endurance exercise
These exercises are well known to help with your overall fitness. They help you control your weight, improve your cardiovascular health, and give you more energy and stamina.
Because aerobic exercises strengthen the heart and make the lungs more efficient, they reduce fatigue, whilst also helping to increase the number of calories the body uses. Great ways to include this kind of exercise are jogging, cycling, swimming or using a cross trainer in the gym. Walking is also included but you should walk fast enough or uphill so you can get slightly out of breath, at the same time as being able to maintain a conversation.
To make it easier on your joints you may want to do aerobic or endurance exercise in 10-minute blocks across the day. Try to include this type of exercise most days of the week, however, even a couple of days can still be beneficial.
Low Impact Water-Based Exercise
These are particularly helpful for people who have significant joint pain by helping to keep joint stress low while you move. The water’s buoyancy can relieve the pressure of your body weight on the affected joints, whilst also providing resistance so your muscles get stronger.
Aquatic exercises can also be beneficial for people just beginning to exercise or for those who are overweight. Instead of swimming, these types of exercises are performed while standing in shoulder-height water. Try a lap in the pool (usually 4-feet deep), walking from one side of the pool to the other at a brisk pace. Many health centres also have an underwater treadmill, so you can adjust the speed of the exercise.
Check with your doctor first
Whichever type of exercise you choose, talk to your doctor about fitting these into your treatment plan. The exercises that are best for you depends on which joints are involved and your type of arthritis. Your doctor or a physical therapist can then work with you to find the exercise plan that gives you the most benefit with the least aggravation of your joint pain.