Joint pain can really put a damper on your life and mobility. When every movement hurts or you are constantly taking pain meds just to get out of bed in the morning, life can become pretty limited. Luckily, there are many things you can do to help support and even improve your mobility.
A well-rounded exercise program to support joint health should include three components: aerobic activity, strength training and flexibility or mobility. Following are a few of the best ways to tackle all three areas.
Aerobic exercises get your heart pumping. They can help control your weight, give you more energy and are vital for cardiovascular health. A study on the impact of a walking program on subjects with rheumatoid arthritis found that walking three to four days a week elicited an overall feeling of well-being with no adverse effects.
Many aerobic activities can be high-impact and therefore hard on the joints, but you can opt instead for low-impact activities. A few great options include walking, cycling and swimming. Aim for a goal of 150 minutes a week (or 30 minutes a day) of moderate physical activity.
Strong muscles help support and protect joints. Weight training is the best way to increase muscle strength. You might be surprised to know that strength training doesn’t require any special equipment; you can use your bodyweight for many different exercises to maintain strength. Using exercise bands, which are inexpensive, can be a good place to start for beginners.
...consider a gentle yoga class or tai chi. These two types of exercise help keep muscles and joints flexible, while being low impact.
A well-rounded strength training program should tackle different muscle groups on different days. Aim to do eight to 10 different exercises each session about three times a week.
Mobility and flexibility exercises can help maintain range of motion and reduce joint stiffness. These exercises are the easiest to do at any time and can be done daily; they can be as simple as sitting in a chair and stretching out your legs, or raising your arms above your head. Moving the joints regularly can help prevent pain.
If you want a more structured approach, consider a gentle yoga class or tai chi. These two types of exercise help keep muscles and joints flexible, while being low impact. They can also help with body awareness and balance, preventing falls and injuries.
If your pain is severe or you just don’t know where to start, consider seeking help from a personal trainer or physical therapist to guide you in the right direction based on your limitations. Or ask your doctor for a referral to programs that specialize in exercise for people with arthritis or other joint-related conditions.
Finally, if it’s been awhile since you exercised, it’s important to start slow and listen to your body. If you experience severe pain or inflammation, back off a little bit and try again. The important thing is to try to stay active for your health and the health of your joints.
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