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Stay Active, Stay Strong: Exercise Tips for Managing Arthritis

Let's talk about the benefits of exercise, especially for those who have arthritis. Exercise helps increase your strength, making it easier to move around and reduce joint pain. It can even help fight that pesky tiredness we all feel sometimes.


arthritis pain in knee

Now, I get it. When your joints are stiff and achy, the idea of walking around the block or doing laps in the pool can seem overwhelming. But fear not! You don't need to be a marathon runner or swim for miles to reap the benefits of exercise. Even moderate exercise can ease pain and keep you at a healthy weight. So, when arthritis is trying to slow you down, exercise can help keep you moving and grooving!




Why Exercise is Needed


Let's talk about exercise and how it can help you feel your best! Believe it or not, you can exercise in a way that's good for your health and won't hurt your joints. In fact, when combined with a treatment program, exercise can actually improve your quality of life. Here are just a few ways exercise can help:

  • It can strengthen the muscles around your joints, giving you extra support and reducing pain.

  • It can keep your bones strong and healthy.

  • It can give you more energy to tackle your day.

  • It can help you sleep better at night.

  • It can keep your weight in check and prevent excess stress on your joints.

  • It can improve your balance and coordination.

  • And last but not least, it can boost your mood and make you feel happier and more relaxed! Remember, your bones need strong muscles to support them. So don't skip your exercise routine! When you neglect to exercise, you're actually weakening those important support muscles, which puts more stress on your joints.

Always Check with the Doc First


Why not bring up the topic of exercise with your care provider? Let them know you're interested in incorporating physical activity into your treatment plan. The types of exercises that work best for you will depend on the specific type of arthritis you have and the joints affected. A physical therapist or other healthcare team member can collaborate with you to develop an exercise plan that's tailored to your needs and goals. Don't be afraid to speak up!


Exercises for Arthritis


Alright let's get to the good stuff. What you actually want to know. It's quite simple really. Everything everyone else should be doing too. Just slightly different.


Range Of Motion - Stretching

These exercises lessen stiffness and put joints through their full range of motion. Examples of these exercises are stretching arms up high or rolling shoulders forward and backward. Most of these exercises can be done every day. Think yoga too! Static stretching isn't quite the one though. You want to MOVE through your stretches not hold them. Once things are loosened up and you are feeling good, then you can move onto some holding stretches.


Strength Training

Get ready to pump some iron, because these exercises will help you build strong muscles that can support and protect your joints. Weight training is a great example of exercise that can help build and maintain muscle strength. Whether you're using resistance bands, hand weights, or machines, you'll be on your way to building strength in no time.


It's recommended to do weight training every other day for at least two days a week, and it should include all the major muscles in your body.


Cardio

Let's make exercise fun and heart-pumping! Cardio exercises are the way to go for a healthy heart, weight control, and a burst of energy. Plus, they're easy on the joints! Walking, biking, swimming, and water aerobics are all great options to get your heart rate up without hurting your joints. Don't forget about cardio classes either. But fear not! There are so many low-impact options for class. Taking the jumping out, replacing with boxing, and using tools like med balls or heavy ropes are great modifications.


Start slow and aim for 150 minutes of somewhat hard cardio exercise each week. If you need to break it down into 10-minute sessions, that's cool too! You can even sprinkle in a couple of days a week and still get some benefits. Just make sure you exercise at a moderate intensity where breathing is harder than usual but you can still chat with your workout buddy.


A Few Tips!

Let's make exercising a joyful experience by starting slowly and not overdoing it. Here are some tips to help you get started:

  • Keep it low impact. Exercise in ways that don't stress your joints, like biking, elliptical workouts, swimming, or low-impact cardio classes.

  • Use heat. Soak in a warm shower or use warm towels or hot packs to help relax your muscles and joints before exercising.

  • Ease into it. Start with gentle range-of-motion exercises to get your joints moving. Gradually add strengthening or aerobic exercises.

  • Take it slow. Exercise with slow, easy movements, and take a break if you feel pain or see swelling in your joints.

  • Ice it down. After exercising, apply ice to your joints for up to 20 minutes to reduce any swelling.

  • Listen to your body. Don't push yourself too hard, and build up your exercise routine slowly as you get stronger and more comfortable.

Remember, exercise should be fun, not painful. By following these tips, you can enjoy the benefits of exercise without hurting your joints.


Take it Slow


It's normal to experience some pain and stiffness after exercising if you haven't been active for a while, but if the pain lasts for more than two hours, it might be an indication that you're pushing too hard. If you have rheumatoid arthritis, it's important to consult your healthcare provider about whether you should exercise during flares. You may need to modify your exercise routine during flares, but keeping your body moving can still be beneficial. Always listen to your body and talk to your healthcare provider about any concerns or questions you may have regarding exercise and arthritis.


Exercise is an important component in managing arthritis. It can help improve overall health and fitness, build strong muscles, reduce joint pain, and improve mood and sleep. The best exercises for arthritis depend on the type of arthritis and which joints are affected. Range-of-motion exercises, strengthening exercises, and aerobic exercises are all important to incorporate into a regular exercise routine. It's important to start slowly and listen to your body, keeping the impact low and using heat and ice as needed. With the help of a healthcare provider and/or physical therapist, an exercise plan can be tailored to your specific needs and abilities, making it possible to stay active and maintain a good quality of life despite having arthritis.

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