Exercising With Arthritis
Exercising for people with arthritis can be very beneficial for relieving pain and joint stiffness. Exercise can be broken into three basic types: resistance, cardiovascular, and range-of-motion exercises. Incorporating a variety of these types of exercises is the best way to improve joint health and reduce arthritis pain. Of course, we ask that you work with your doctor to discuss any exercise program, especially during a flare-up.
Studies have shown that people with arthritis who exercise find that they have less pain than those who do not. We have listed some low-impact and joint friendly exercises that will hopefully encourage you to keep moving.
Using Free Weights - Included in this category are dumbbells, barbells, weight plates, medicine balls, kettlebells, and others. Lifting weights provides numerous benefits to help manage your arthritis pain and is a key component for your overall health. The general rule of thumb, if you have arthritis, is to use lighter weights and do higher repetitions to prevent injury.
Using Your Body Weight - Pilates and yoga are great examples of using your own body weight while going easy on your joints. Both of these exercise methods provide ample room for modifications and can be a great fit for those suffering from arthritis pain. The movements are gentle, they increase core strength, and improve your balance all while using your own body weight for resistance.
Using Resistance Bands - Anyone, at any fitness level, can benefit from using resistance bands. They add an extra challenge to bodyweight exercises but don’t put the same sort of pressure on your joints that external weights like dumbells and barbells do. You can do traditional movements like lateral raises, chest presses, and bicep curls. The different color bands determine the amount of resistance ranging from easy to hard.
Walking - Whether you are walking outdoors or on a treadmill, walking is a beneficial and easy on the joints exercise as long as you are not going up or down steep hills. When walking outdoors stick to smooth, dirt trails as they are easiest on your joints. Start off slowly, 10 to 15 minutes at a time for three days or more days per week for a week or two. When you can comfortably walk 30 minutes on a flat surface, gradually up your pace or add a slight incline.
Cardiovascular Exercises Walking - Whether you are walking outdoors or on a treadmill, walking is a beneficial and easy on the joints exercise as long as you are not going up or down steep hills. When walking outdoors stick to smooth, dirt trails as they are easiest on your joints. Start off slowly, 10 to 15 minutes at a time for three days or more days per week for a week or two. When you can comfortably walk 30 minutes on a flat surface, gradually up your pace or add a slight incline.
Cycling - Riding a bicycle is a safe way to get your joints moving while improving your cardiovascular fitness. Cycling also increases leg strength and will build endurance over time. The repetitive knee motion, without constant impact, is especially good for arthritic knees because it encourages the production and flushing of fluids through the joint. Increasing distance, time and speed should be done slowly and with rest days in between.
Range of Motion Exercises
Learning a basic routine of range-of-motion exercises you can practice every day will help you maintain or expand your ability to move. Not moving your joints can lead to increased stiffness and pain, range-of-motion exercises are ideal as they can help your joints to gently become stronger and more flexible over time. Wrist curls, arm circles, toes curls, leg raises and ankle circles are all great range-of-motion exercise that will keep you and your joints moving.
Finding what exercise routine works for you can take some trial and error. Arthritis symptoms can vary on a day to day basis and familiarizing yourself with a variety of exercises can help you avoid overworking one particular area. Keep in mind to choose exercises that build strength, increase your cardiovascular health and challenge your range-of-motion. And remember, progress is progress!