Many people assume that arthritis and exercise don’t mix. Extra movement will only make the pain worse, right? Wrong.
Research shows that specific types of exercise actually decrease joint pain, increase mobility and flexibility and improve overall wellness. Plus exercise can help control weight, which often makes symptoms worse for arthritis sufferers. According to Patience White, M.D., M.A., vice president of public health at the Arthritis Foundation, “Exercise keeps the muscles strong around a joint so that the mechanics work. In the lower extremities, the knee is usually the first joint to experience pain. … If a person loses about 10 pounds and keeps exercising, they can cut the pain in their knees by about 50 percent."
Not all exercises are good for those suffering with arthritis, however. High-intensity exercises like running, jumping and plyometrics can wreak havoc on your joints if done too often and for too long. When doing those types of workouts, it’s best to space them out during the week (three workouts max) and listen to your body. If any movement causes pain to your joints, stop.
Whether you like swimming or doing water aerobics, water exercise is a great alternative for burning lots of calories without putting a lot of extra strain and pressure on your joints. It also provides natural resistance during movement, helping to increase strength and muscle tone.
Young or old, everyone can benefit from walking. Besides being the most accessible and affordable form of exercise, walking helps build bone density as well as strengthening your heart and lungs. The Arthritis Foundation’s walking program, “Walk with Ease,” is a great tool for helping you create a walking routine that supports your needs and goals.
Research shows that strength and resistance training can increase muscle strength around joints and decrease bone loss, which both provide joint support and reduced pain. For this type of exercise, two to three days a week of strength training, 30 minutes per session, is recommended for optimal benefits.
Tai chi is a form of martial arts that originated in China. Embracing the mind, body and spirit, tai chi has been shown to help improve strength, flexibility, mobility, immunity and overall quality of life. It also increases blood flow, which aids in healing and transporting essential nutrients to the bones and tissues that make up the joints.
Cycling, whether indoors or out, is a great cardiovascular workout that helps you burn lots of calories without putting extra pressure and strain on your joints. Cycling also strengthens the muscles in the legs, which support the joints. When looking to purchase a new bike, talk to an associate at your local bike shop to find the right fit for your needs.
The last thing you probably want to do is move when you are experiencing pain and inflammation in your joints. But studies show that the right types of exercises can reduce the negative effects of arthritis. Stick to the list above and you’ll likely be on your way to feeling better!