Exercise & Arthritis
What is Arthritis?
The term arthritis literally means inflammation of a joint, but it is generally used to describe any condition in which there is damage to the cartilage, the tissue that lines the ends of bones in a joint. Inflammation is the body's natural response to injury and presents as redness, swelling, heat and pain.
Impact of Arthritis
Painful and stiff joints can discourage one from any activity, let alone exercise.
Importance of Exercising in Arthritis
Exercising is however crucial for those with arthritis. It reduces joint pain, improves flexibility and strength, combats fatigue and gives you energy to do the things you enjoy.
If you have arthritis, you should understand your limits before engaging in an exercise program. Overdoing it or performing the wrong kind of exercise can aggravate your symptoms and cause discouragement. A doctor or physical therapist can formulate an exercise program to best suit your condition.
Exercise Program for Arthritis
A good exercise program typically focuses on improving range of motion, strength and cardiovascular fitness. Range-of-motion exercises prevent joint stiffness and can be performed on a daily basis. The joint is taken through its full range of motion, which gradually improves with regular exercise. Strengthening the muscles around your joints provides support and takes the stress off your joints. Two to three days a week of strengthening exercises is all you need to show positive gains.
Cardiovascular fitness can be improved through aerobic exercises that gets your heart pumping for a definite amount of time. As you gradually build endurance and energy, you will be able to perform the recommended 150 minutes of aerobic activity a week, splitting it the way you see fit.
Things to Keep in Mind While Exercising with Arthritis
Those with arthritis are encouraged to perform low-impact, low-intensity movements while exercising so as not to tax the joints. If your joints are particularly painful and stiff, using a hot pack or taking a warm shower may be recommended just before the exercise. Any joint swelling after exercise can be treated by gentle icing. Try to determine what level of exercise is effective yet does not aggravate your symptoms.
Alternatives to Exercise for Arthritis Relief
Besides exercise, you can also engage in regular physical activities, such as walking the dog or mowing the lawn, which all add up to your advantage. Just be sure these activities don’t overstrain your joints.
Advantages of Exercises for Arthritis
The various benefits of exercise for those with arthritis include:
- Improved bone strength
- Strong muscles around joints
- Controlled body weight
- Increased energy levels
- Improved balance
- Better quality of life
Knowing these benefits can help you climb the hill of pain and stiffness that most people with arthritis are up against when wanting to do something positive, such as exercise.