What Is Arthritis?
The Best Exercises for Arthritis. Arthritis refers to joint inflammation or degeneration. The condition can lead to swelling, pain, and stiffness of the affected joints or joint structures, like ligaments or tendons. And a person may also find it challenging to move the joints where arthritis is located.
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Arthritis. Many types of arthritis affect adults, such as:
- Ankylosing spondylitis
- Osteoarthritis (OA), which is the most common type
- Psoriatic arthritis
- Reactive arthritis
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
Arthritis Is Painful, Exercises Help
The Best Exercises for Arthritis. Exercising might be the last thing on your mind if you’re experiencing arthritis pain. However, regular low-impact exercise—from aerobics to flexibility, can improve your symptoms and help prevent future pain from occurring. Here’s what you can do, along with why and how you should incorporate exercise into your daily routine if you have arthritis.
Benefits of Exercises with Arthritis
The Best Exercises for Arthritis. Exercise is good for your body and mind because it can boost energy levels, increase endurance, and improve sleep.
American Academy of Family Physicians. Why exercise? For people with arthritis, there are even more benefits. They include:
- Help them feel stronger and more flexible
- Improve daily life functioning
- Increase range of motion
- Reduce depressive symptoms
- Reduce joint pain
The Best Exercises for Arthritis
The Best Exercises for Arthritis. So then, there are a few types of exercise that are beneficial for individuals with arthritis in general:
- Low-impact aerobic exercise
The Best Exercises for Arthritis. Adding balance exercises to your activity regimen is a good idea if you’ve been diagnosed with arthritis. But inactivity can worsen common characteristics of arthritis forms, including muscle weakness and a lack of balance.
Yoga and Tai Chi are balance exercises you can do anywhere, and you don’t need expensive equipment. Also, with guidance from a healthcare provider and proper modifications or assistance as required, you can try the following exercises:
- Heel-to-toe walking for 20 steps
- Standing on one foot for up to 30 seconds per side or challenging yourself to see how long you can stand on either side
- Walking in a line as straight as possible
The Best Exercises for Arthritis. Exercises geared toward flexing and stretching, like range-of-motion exercises or yoga. These can help with the stiffness that comes with arthritis.
Range of Motion Activities
The Best Exercises for Arthritis. Here, range of motion refers to how fully a joint can move within its parameters. Consistently using arthritis-affected joints for range-of-motion exercises will increase your joints’ range of motion regarding:
- Bending and flexing
- Stretching your limbs out to their full length
- Rotating your head
- Rolling your shoulders
In addition, unlike other exercises that should be done in moderation, these movements can usually be done daily.
Yoga and Pilates
The Best Exercises for Arthritis. A yoga or Pilates class can significantly increase your balance, range of motion, and flexibility. These activities are low impact but utilize many parts of your body. Also, yoga and Pilates often have benefits for your mental health. You may notice you are more relaxed or less anxious and sleep better when you incorporate these exercises into your routine.
Low-Impact Aerobic Exercises
The Best Exercises for Arthritis. Low-impact aerobic exercises keep your heart pumping. However, their benefit as a form of exercise for arthritis is that they won’t add to joint stress. They include activities such as:
- Light gardening
- Riding your bike or taking a spinning class
- Swimming or doing water aerobics
- Taking a daily walk around your neighborhood
The Best Exercises for Arthritis. In this case, strength training is another excellent addition to your exercise routine. Hence, strong muscles can help build better balance, improve the stability of joints, and decrease arthritic pain.
Here, exercises that strengthen your muscles may include squats, arm curls, or wall push-ups. Some exercises use your body weight, while others may require equipment like resistance bands, hand weights, and dumbbells.
For individuals with arthritis. The emphasis should be lightweight high-repetition movements—versus fewer repetitions with heavier weights—to avoid putting stress on joints.
Exercises for Specific Types of Arthritis
The Best Exercises for Arthritis. Certain types of exercise can be beneficial depending on the type of arthritis. For instance:
- Ankylosing spondylitis: Breathing exercises for mobility; flexibility for back, hips, neck, and shoulders; muscle strengthening for back and hips
- OA: Balance; flexibility with an emphasis on range of motion; low-impact aerobics; muscle strengthening for knees and hips
- RA: Flexibility for stiffness; light stretching, especially for the neck; low-impact aerobics and resistance training for fatigue
You can also cater different exercises to where your arthritis is located, such as in the case of:
- Hands: Finger flexion and extension and wrist extensor stretch
- Hips: Forward step-up, hamstring stretch, and trunk lift
- Knees: Hamstring curls, single-leg dips, straight-leg lifts, step-ups, and wall squats
How To Exercise Safely With Arthritis
The Best Exercises for Arthritis. Although exercise is essential to maintaining your physical and mental health when you have arthritis, you should also know how to exercise correctly. You want to avoid overuse, inflammation, and injury.
Remember the following eight tips before you start or change your exercise plan, and consult with a healthcare provider before trying anything new.
- Stretch before and after. Warm up and cool down with a few stretches to keep your joints and muscles limber, prevent injury, and ease into your exercise routine.
- Avoid high-impact exercise. Too much jostling and strain on your joints can not only worsen arthritis pain, but it can also cause further inflammation of your affected joints. You may want to avoid running, cross-training, contact sports, and intense cardiovascular aerobic exercise.
- Use the right “tools.” Everything from the weight of your kettlebells to the style of your sneakers can impact how well—and how safely—you exercise with arthritis. If you’re not sure what to use or wear while working out, ask a healthcare provider or a physical therapist for tips.
- Apply heat and ice. Using heat before a workout and applying ice, if needed, after exercise works well together. Heat will relax muscles and make it easier to perform physical activities, while ice can reduce swelling or inflammation from your workout.
5. Start small and slow. Building up your body’s tolerance is vital if you’ve never had much of an exercise routine. Start with what you can do comfortably until it becomes more manageable, and then slowly add on from there. Make sure you also allow yourself plenty of time to rest after exercising.
6. Don’t ignore pain. Some people might be able to “push through the pain” without any side effects, but this isn’t good advice for people with arthritis. Some mild discomfort may be expected if this is a new-to-you activity, but you shouldn’t power through moderate pain. Instead, take a break or modify your workout until it’s more comfortable.
7. Ask a physical therapist for help. Talk with a physical therapist if you’re unsure where to start or how to maintain a safe exercise routine.
8. Try not to be deterred. Like anything else, exercise takes some practice. You may also have good and bad days, but a bad day doesn’t mean you must stop exercising altogether. Do what you can, as often as you can.
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Exercising with arthritis can be hard, but doing so is beneficial for providing arthritis relief. Low-impact aerobic exercises and ones that can help improve muscle strength, flexibility, and balance are helpful. Talk with a healthcare provider or physical therapist to determine which exercises work best for you.
Important Note *
Remember that everyone is different, it is ultimately YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to find what your body responds to. So please do your due diligence before trying anything new, including getting Medical Advice to ensure your safety and peace of mind.
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