It May Seem Counterintuitive…
A natural reaction to arthritis is to curtail movement. Millions of Baby Boomers and seniors with the disorder are limited in their ability to do daily activities, such as standing, bending, walking, and climbing stairs.
But the results of this inactivity can be catastrophic. Living a more sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of heart disease and Type II diabetes, slower walking times, decreased ability to perform daily tasks such as getting out of a chair, and depression. And so the downward spiral to permanent disability begins.
Physical activity, then, is a key component of a multi-disciplinary approach for arthritis treatment. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, exercise and strength-training activities help those with arthritis in the following ways:
- Improved muscle strength around the affected joint
- Reduced load or stress on the joint
- Reduced pain and joint stiffness
- Improved maintenance of functional abilities
- Improved mental health and quality of life
Physical Activities Guidelines
Here are some important guidelines for engaging in physical activity with arthritis.
- Speak to your health care professional before starting an exercise program.
- Exercise when arthritic pain and inflammation are least severe.
- Allow 5 – 10 minutes for warm-up (slow movement of joints through range of motion or low-intensity activity) and cool-down.
- Substitute a tolerable activity for one that causes pain.
- Apply heat or cold to reduce pain and inflammation. Heat relaxes muscles and increases circulation; ice reduces swelling and numbs pain to the affected area.
- Wear appropriate shoes to provide shock absorption and stability.
- Understand that some discomfort during or immediately after exercise is normal; it should subside after 2 hours.
- Work with a physical therapist or physical trainer to be sure the exercises are safe and appropriate.
- Check with the Arthritis Foundation or your local YMCA for programs in your area, especially water-based ones.
• Exercise when you have extreme joint pain.
• Forget to warm-up and cool-down.
• Aim for long exercise sessions.
• Neglect either aerobic activity or resistance training—both are beneficial.
• Forget to drink plenty of water and watch your weight.
• Do all land-based activity—water exercise (in warm water) is excellent!
Examples of beneficial exercises for arthritis:
Walking, water-based exercises, strength lifting, yoga, stationary biking, and golf.
For other guidelines on physical activity and folks over age 50, check out my free ebook.