Lifestyle   Wellness
By Lifestyle Team | 16 Jan. 2018

How to Exercise with Arthritis

older-people-riding-bikes

Arthritis pain can severely limit a person’s ability to engage in and enjoy physical activity. Whether it be biking, swimming, hiking, or even a simple walk around the neighborhood, many sufferers of joint pain avoid exercise. Some do so because of the associated discomfort, while others hope it will prevent further damage to their joints.

However, exercise is actually an integral part of managing joint pain. Arthritis can seem limiting at first, but there are a number of exercises for arthritis sufferers that can help ease joint pain, strengthen the surrounding muscle, and promote overall good health and well being.

The Benefits of Exercise for Arthritis

Exercise is an essential part of maintaining overall health, and for joint pain sufferers, it’s also a key component to their long-term pain management and recovery. Firstly, exercise helps patients keep their weight under control. Carrying around excess body weight is especially harmful for those with arthritis, as it puts added strain on joints, leading to pain and damage. Regular exercise also supports and improves bone strength. Arthritis damages the protective cartilage between joint bones, so maintaining bone strength is vital for arthritis patients.

Exercise is important for maintaining emotional well being too. Patients with chronic pain conditions like arthritis frequently suffer from depression and anxiety. Regular exercise releases endorphins, hormones that not only help control and inhibit the transmission of pain signals to the brain, but also promote a positive mood.

While medications may support an arthritis treatment plan, they are not without negative side effects. This is especially true for autoimmune arthritis, as the biologics used to treat these conditions pose serious health risks for some individuals when used long-term. An exercise program enables many arthritis patients to be less dependent upon these treatments.

Low Impact Cardio

Patients with significant wear, inflammation, and pain to joints in the lower extremities, such as the knees or toes, may cringe at the idea of going out for a long jog. Even with a pair of high-end running shoes, pounding the pavement may not be the best choice for some. That said, there are plenty of exercises for arthritis that get the heart pumping without putting undue stress on joints.

Swimming is an excellent choice for arthritis patients, as it works the cardiovascular system and several muscle groups, while the water’s buoyancy significantly reduces the impact on joints. Pools offer ample options in terms of exercise routines, with lap swimming and water aerobics being the most popular.

Cycling is another low-impact that offers several benefits for those with arthritis. Biking strengthens the leg and core muscles, helping to support weakened joints and reduce pain, as well encouraging lubrication in the knee joints. Another advantage of cycling is that it can be done year-round, as using a stationary bike is just as beneficial as peddling around the neighborhood.

Click here for the difference between high and low impact cardio.

Weight Training and Arthritis

It seems counter-intuitive, but weight training, when approached with appropriate caution and planning, offers all manner of benefits to joint pain sufferers. A simple 20 minute dumbbell routine performed two or three times a week is enough for arthritis patients to garner its benefits. Developing muscle around weakened or damaged joints helps compensate, and the complex motions of some dumbbell exercises improve patients’ flexibility and dexterity.

Patients should focus on high rep, low weight exercises with shorter breaks between exercises. Weight programs that emphasize reps over heavy weights maximize cardiovascular benefits while still promoting muscle gain and bone strength. Furthermore, replacing fat with lean muscle mass can help arthritis patients maintain a healthy weight, thereby easing the burden on their weakened joints.

Future Outlook

When it comes to exercise and arthritis, what ultimately matters is consistency and sustainability. Patients should develop an individualized routine, taking full advantage of a range of aerobic and weight-focused exercise. Variety in routine helps keeps things fresh and ensures patients will achieve the maximum benefits of exercise for their arthritis, helping them to lead a happier, healthier, more active life.