If you suffer from arthritis, the pain and stiffness in your joints may prevent you from thinking about an exercise routine. However, exercise is crucial for those with arthritis. Exercise has a number of health benefits, including decreased pain and fatigue, increased strength and flexibility, and improved ability to manage symptoms or prevent injury. Below are three ways you can safely exercise with arthritis.
Get in the Water
Lap swimming or aqua aerobics are great low impact exercises. The water’s buoyancy supports the body’s weight, which reduces stress on the joints. Try to work your way up to 20-30 minutes of swimming three times a week.
Build Strong Muscles
Participating in weight-bearing exercises can help to build strong muscles, which will help support and protect your joints. Find an appropriate weight. One that is not too heavy, but still feels like you are doing some work (try for 4-5 out of 10 difficulty). Start with 1-2 sets of around 10 repetitions; progress to 12, then 15 repetitions. When you can perform 15 reps with relative ease, increase the weights and return back to your 10 repetitions, and start again! Your strength training sessions can start out 1-2 times a week, and progress to 3-4 times a week as you feel yourself getting stronger.
You should also try to work in a cardiovascular component. It can be anything: riding a bike, going for a jog, or a walk, or swimming. Aim for activity 2-3 times week for 15-45 minutes. This will increase strength, and also help manage body weight.
Stretch it Out
Stretching on a daily basis can help maintain or even improve range of motion of your arthritic joints as well as the non-affected joints. Stretching should be done gently and when muscles are warmed up. To warm up, you can take a warm shower, or a short 5 minute walk or ride on the bike. Stretches can be held for 20 to 30 seconds to encourage improved flexibility. Another great stretching option is yoga, which can help improve flexibility and balance. Your local health club or senior center may even offer chair yoga, where most exercises can be done in a seated position.
Remember to always consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise routine. New exercises should be done slowly and gradually increased with time.