One of the most beneficial activities one can do for their arthritis is to exercise. One does not have to be able to run a marathon or swim like an Olympic athlete, but when done within each individual’s limits and level of fitness, it can give good results helping to ease pain and stiffness.
Even though the debilitating pain of arthritis can be enough to make anyone shy away from exercise believing it will aggravate it, the act of not exercising can do just the opposite. Avoiding exercise because of arthritis in knees, hips, back, or ankles may actually do more harm than good. By skipping exercise individuals with arthritis will miss out on keeping their heart, brain, and muscles functioning at their best. Plus people with arthritis who keep physically active will see results of:
- Stronger muscles
- Better endurance
- Improved balance
- Increased range of motion in the affected joint
- Reduced chance of injury
- Improved flexibility
What type of exercise is best?
Walking is a typical choice for many with arthritis to start out with. It generally is well-tolerated and can be done anywhere with no special equipment. But there are many other forms of exercise to choose from.
Some individuals find swimming or bicycling tend to be better tolerated than walking, particularly for those with arthritis in the hips or knees. Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, has been shown to benefit from water-based exercises that improved strength, balance and even reduced pain.
Simple yoga or Pilates stretching can be good examples of keeping muscles flexible, bringing needed nutrients to the joints, and easing pain at the same time.
Working with a physical therapist or doctor to create an exercise program suited best for each person can a great way to start a physical activity program easing arthritis.
Start out slowly
Often people will say they cannot tolerate exercise because of the pain, stiffness, and fatigue of arthritis creating a barrier to increasing activity. These same symptoms however, can also improve with regular exercise.
The best advice is to start off slowly by just taking a 5-10 minute walk through your neighborhood, do water walking in a pool or ride a stationary bike. Do a little bit each day tolerating what you can and gradually increase the time spent exercising.
Check with your doctor first
Always check with your physician before embarking on an exercise program making sure it is the one best suited for you. A doctor or physical therapist can recommend exercises which might include range-of-motion activities, strengthening and aerobic exercises and other activities.