Staying Fit with Arthritis | Staff | Community | Advice | Residents
Staying Fit with Arthritis
May is National Arthritis Awareness month. More than 50 million Americans are afflicted with arthritis, making it the number one cause of disability in the United States.
Arthritis is the swelling and tenderness of one or multiple joints. It is one of the most common bone and joint disorders and can limit your physical activity and recreational pursuits. Inactivity can, in turn, result in arthritis-related problems, such as osteoarthritis, lupus, and gout, in addition to a variety of more severe physical health risks, including Type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis.
Participating in physical activity is important for everyone. If you are arthritic, regular exercise can reduce joint pain and stiffness, improve joint mobility and strength, increase or maintain bone density, and improve mood and quality of life. Consider joint-friendly physical activities, such as brisk walking, cycling, swimming, water aerobics, light gardening, group exercise classes, and dancing, which can help relieve arthritis pain and reduce the risks of injury.
Before initiating a physical fitness program, be sure to consult your doctor or physical therapist. He or she can help recommend specific exercises based on your diagnosis. Some of the most commonly prescribed exercises include:
- Range of motion exercises to combat stiff joints and increase your ability to move your joints fully. Examples include raising your arms above your head and shoulder rolls. These gentle exercises can be done daily.
- Strengthening exercises help build strong muscles. Strong muscles protect your joints. One way to incorporate strength exercise into your fitness routine is to weight train. Never fear! Weight training isn’t just for bodybuilders, and it doesn’t need to be extreme to achieve results. Holding two soup cans (one in each hand) to do daily curls can be enough to build strength in your upper arms. It’s recommended that you rest a day in between strength training sessions, but don’t be discouraged if you need to take 2-3 days off instead. Exercise should never hurt!
- Aerobic exercise gets the heart and lungs pumping. Aerobics improves cardiovascular health, helps control weight gain, and builds stamina and energy. Easy aerobic exercises include biking, hiking, walking, swimming, or using an elliptical machine. Work up to a goal of 150 minutes of aerobic exercise each week, parceled out in 10-20 minute increments as needed until you build stamina.
Other tips to consider as you gently increase your fitness routine:
- Stick to low-impact exercises, like swimming, stationary or recumbent bicycles, or elliptical machines, to minimize joint stress.
- Heat to relax it away. Relieve sore muscles by soaking in a hot tub, applying hot compresses to sore joints, or taking a warm shower post-workout.
- Be gentle on yourself. Take time to warm up, and stick to minimal repetitions until you build strength, then add more reps.
- Go slowly! Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is a fit body. If you are in pain, take a break. Slow down if you experience swelling or redness in your joints.
- Ice, ice, baby. As needed, apply ice to especially tender areas of your body post-workout.
Above all, listen to your body. If it hurts, don’t strain. Take it easy, and slowly add more challenges to allow your body to adjust between workouts. Talk to your doctor if the pain is repetitive, worsening, or seems abnormal.
Keeping fit and active is a key component to living a long and healthy life. The best way to get started is to just start!