Guidelines for Exercising with Arthritis

September 9, 2011

By Jessica Siebert

The Benefits of Exercising with Arthritis

In the past, doctors have advised patients suffering from arthritis to stay away from exercising for fear it may exacerbate their condition. This mentality appears to exist today, as a recent poll found that the majority of people suffering from arthritis feel that exercise will make their condition worse, rather then better.

Over the past decade, there has been mounting evidence that has shown that exercise dramatically improves many of the symptoms associated with arthritis. Experts now agree that exercise is crucial if you suffer from arthritis, but knowing just how much, and with what intensity can be difficult.

Where to Begin Exercising

Arthritis ExerciseIt is always important to talk to your doctor or physiotherapist before starting an exercise routine. They can inform you on what exercises are beneficial, and what you should stay away from depending on the severity of your arthritis.

It is also extremely important to listen to your body. Richard Kessler, a physical therapist in New York says that, “continuing to put pressure on a joint that is especially sore could cause damage.” He goes on to say, that if you are experiencing a lot of pain when working on a specific area you should stop immediately, because it could mean joint inflammation, or a damaged joint that requires treatment. If you have a lot of pain after exercising, it is best to cut back on the intensity, or switch to a different area on the body.

Walking & Arthritis

Walking is a great exercise to start out with; it has been shown to ease pain, especially for those with early osteoarthritis affecting the hip and knee. Experts advise that you stay level on firm, flat ground when you walk since any uneven surfaces can increase joint pain.

It is also a good idea to schedule walks about an hour after taking arthritis medication to allow the painkillers to kick in. Investing in a good pair of walking shoes that provide a lot of cushioning (especially the heel area) will help absorb the shock, and make walking more enjoyable.

It’s important to walk slowly to avoid stress on your knees, and to limit your distance at first. When you begin to increase the length of your walk, make sure you go on a route where you can take breaks along the way. If you find walking too painful, experts suggest going to a pool, and walking under water. This will take a lot of the weight and impact off your joints, and reduce the pain.

Flexibility Exercises for Your Joints

Flexibility exercises can help protect your joints by reducing the risk of injury, and by helping you warm-up for more strenuous exercise. As with any exercise, you should start slowly, and as you experience less pain you can progress to more. You can do flexibility exercises anywhere, and for those who have a lot of pain, you can try exercises in the pool or hot tub.

It is very helpful to do these exercises in the morning when joints are stiff and hard to get moving. It’s best to work yourself up to fifteen continuous minutes of flexibility exercises, before engaging in strengthening or aerobic exercises. Some examples of flexibility exercises include tai chi, and yoga. They can improve balance, relax stiff muscles, and help with weight loss.

Strengthening Exercises

Strong muscles lessen the stress on your joints by absorbing shock, protecting your joints from injury, and helping you get around better. Strengthening exercises use weight or resistance to make muscles work harder, helping them to get stronger. There are two types of strengthening exercises, isometric and isotonic.

Isometric exercises strengthen the muscle by tightening the muscle, without moving the joint. These are good for people with arthritis because it reduces stress on your joints. Isotonic exercise strengthens the muscle by moving the joint; these exercises are also very beneficial for those with arthritis, but should only be done with those who don’t have a lot of joint damage.

Cardiovascular Exercise

Cardiovascular exercise is very important for those with arthritis because it strengthens heart and lungs, increases endurance, and helps with weight loss. Losing excess weight is important because extra weight adds stress on joints, which makes arthritis pain worse.

Cardiovascular exercise includes walking, dancing, swimming, or anything else that uses large muscles in continuous motion. You should aim to include this type of exercise in your program three to four times each week, starting off with 5 minutes, and working up to thirty minutes each session. Pick activities that you enjoy, and make it fun by finding a friend to exercise with.

Your lifestyle, time, likes and dislikes, should be considered when designing a fitness program. It’s important that you’re having fun and enjoying what you’re doing in order to stick with it long term. The end result will be an enhanced ability to handle the stresses of daily living without suffering from greater pain, or disability.

The Impowerage Guide to Fitness includes instructions on strength training exercises, stretching, cardio and includes guidelines on exercising with arthritis. The program includes 3 different levels for beginners, intermediate and advanced exercises.

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