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Exercise and Arthritis: Why It’s Important
If you have arthritis, normal physical activity and exercise may feel impossible. The thought of increased pain, stiffness, and swelling might make you shy away from being active. However, exercise is crucial for people with arthritis, as it reduces symptoms and helps ease pain.
Why Physical Activity Is Important
For people with arthritis, joint-friendly exercises can improve pain, function, mood, and quality of life. Though you may think physical activity would aggravate joint pain, it’s actually the opposite. Lack of exercise can make your joints more painful and stiff. Without exercise, the muscles surrounding your joints begin to get weaker, which results in more stress. Exercise can also:
- Help you maintain bone strength
- Improve your quality of sleep
- Help you control your weight
- Improve your balance
- Give you more energy throughout the day
Exercises for Arthritis
Low-impact exercises. If you have arthritis, you want to choose joint-friendly, low-impact exercises. Low-impact activities put less stress on your body, reducing the risk of injury or irritation. There are many different low-impact exercises, including:
- Water aerobics
Range-of-motion exercises. These exercises help reduce pressure and stiffness in your joints, allowing you to move more freely. They include movements like raising your arms or legs, extending your knees, bending your hips, rolling your shoulders forward and backward, and more. Doing these exercises daily can help improve your range of motion.
Muscle-strengthening exercises. These exercises help build your muscles so they can adequately support and protect your joints. Simple weightlifting can help increase blood flow and circulation. Choose a dumbbell weight that’s comfortable for you. If you choose one that’s too heavy, you risk injuring yourself. Remember to take a rest day between your workouts. If your joints are swollen or painful, wait until they feel better to resume. Aim to complete strengthening exercises 2-3 times per week. Before beginning weight training, talk to your doctor about what’s right for you.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), exercising safely with arthritis starts by being S.M.A.R.T.:
- Start low, go slow: When starting a new exercise routine, pay attention to how your body reacts to it. You don’t want to do too much too quickly—that can result in injury. If you’ve been inactive for some time, start slowly, with just 5-10 minutes each day, then add a few minutes each day until you reach your daily goal. Always talk to your doctor before trying new exercises.
- Modify activity when arthritis symptoms increase: Your symptoms—pain, stiffness, soreness, and fatigue—may come and go each day. If you’re in pain, don’t push it. Take a break and make up for it when you feel better. Try to stay as active as your symptoms allow.
- Activities should be joint-friendly: As mentioned above, choose activities that don’t add stress to your joints, such as walking, biking, or water activities.
- Recognize safe places and ways to be active: As a senior, exercising on your own can be scary. You may think about what were to happen if you fall or have a medical emergency. For these reasons, exercising in groups, such as taking an exercise class, is a great option for seniors. If you do plan to exercise by yourself, always inform friends, family, or a staff member where you will be exercising.
- Talk to your doctor: Your doctor is a great resource for information about exercise. Because they know you and your health history, they can recommend exercises to help keep you active and healthy. Always speak to your doctor before starting a new exercise regimen.
At Grand Oaks, you will find physical activities that fit your ability and interests, including walking club, aquatic exercise, and more to help keep you happy and pain-free. To learn more, schedule a tour today.