It’s the back. Or the knees. Or even, oddly, the wrists and ankles. It’s tender and swollen joints, and pain and stiffness. And try as you might, you can’t seem to work up the desire to exercise, even though you’re pretty sure it would make you feel better. In fact, the condition that plagues you seems to negatively affect nearly every effort you make towards living a healthy lifestyle. If you suffer from arthritis, then this description sounds familiar. May is National Arthritis Awareness month, and we want to highlight this condition that can come in over 100 different forms, and affects a staggering 40 million Americans.
It turns out that, contrary to what your body tells you, exercise can be a wonderful thing for those who experience arthritis in one or more joints. It can help relieve multiple arthritic conditions such as pain, stiffness, fatigue, and even depression. One study found that people with osteoarthritis in the knee who exercised regularly lowered their pain by 12% compared to those who didn’t. But, like with many medical conditions, precautions should be taken so you have the best and safest exercise experience possible. Here are a few exercises for those with arthritis, as well as some tips and advice.
- Make it smooth
Many aerobic exercises can be safely enjoyed by those with arthritis, given that the exercise is low-impact, and supports smooth, fluid movements. Try speed-walking, elliptical training, swimming, or low-impact dancing. If you’re new to aerobic exercise, it’s especially important with arthritis to start slowly and gradually increase your speed and duration to reduce the risk of injury or over-exertion.
- Weight for it
Weight training, or strength training, can be good for anyone, as long as you know your limits. It can help strengthen and protect joints and improve movement in your joints. For those with arthritis, it’s vital that you warm up with gentle stretches and range of motion movements before, and stretch after a strength training workout. Try to schedule sessions with your trainer during times of the day when you’re least likely to experience inflammation. In fact, if you have rheumatoid arthritis, it’s generally a good idea to hold off on weight training when you have actively inflamed joints.
- Stretch it out
Stretching doesn’t have to be limited to before or after exercising. In some cases stretching can count as your actual workout. Exercises that work on gently lengthening your muscles while simultaneously strengthening your core muscles can be good for your arthritis symptoms. Exercises that involve yoga-like movements can leave you feeling more limber, more relaxed, and can ultimately help improve your balance and muscle tone. Yoga-like exercise is unique in that they can be done every day, even during high-inflammation days. In fact, guiding your joints through movements and stretches can help lessen stiffness and pain.
In general, the right kind of movement can be beneficial for those with arthritis. It causes your joints to compress and release, inviting oxygen, blood flow, and nutrients into your muscles and cartilage. Work with your Fitness Together trainer to develop an arthritis-friendly fitness plan that can improve your mood, health, and quality of life.