With more than 100 varieties affecting the body in a multitude of ways, arthritis is the leading cause of disability in America. It does not discriminate as it affects those of all ages, races, and gender. Today, there are more than 50 million adults and 300,000 children suffering from the symptoms of some form of arthritis. Arthritis is not a single disease, but rather a way of referring to joint pain or joint disease. Those who suffer from arthritis experience swelling, stiffness, and pain leading to limited range of motion. Unfortunately, the development of this condition is a natural part of aging. The stress on the body’s joints over years and years of wear and tear causes structural damage and inflammation. Don’t give up hope and throw in the towel now, however! Exercise is a great way to prolong the onset and counteract the symptoms of this ailment. Those who suffer from the pains of arthritis know all too well that exercise may be the last thing they want to do when their symptoms flare up. Exercise should not be avoided and is actually beneficial when combatting this issue. Here we will focus on five tips to improve quality of life by exercising with arthritis!
Take the Time to Properly Warm Up & Cool Down
A proper warm-up will help to increase blood flow and temperature to the active sites of the body. The warm-up should emphasize moving the joints/muscles involved in the exercises you intend to utilize in that days training session. Start with slow walking movements such as pulling your knee to chest or small mini-squats. Pieces of cardio equipment such as a recumbent bike or elliptical work well to gradually ready the body for further exercise.
Once the workout is complete, don’t pack up for the day. Make sure you spend time stretching, rolling out, or using other recovery techniques once your workout is complete. By foam rolling or stretching the muscles surrounding the joints used that day, you will be able to reduce stiffness, soreness, and inflammation while maintaining an increased range of motion.
Focus on Full Range of Motion Exercises
Exercise selection is key when creating the perfect program to combat arthritis. Choose exercises which focus on moving through a full range of motion to help increase mobility. Be sure to gradually increase range of motion within the exercise as the body allows to reduce risk of pain or injury. Exercises such as lunges, deadlifts, and bent-over-rows are great selections in which you can ease into the full range of motion.
Keep Joint Impact Low
High impact exercises are detrimental to those dealing with arthritic issues. The impact will cause great pain and inflammation in the joint, leading to a decreased range of motion. Choose exercises which have low joint impact as they will help keep joint integrity high. Adding aquatic exercises such as swimming, deep water running, or aqua aerobics are a perfect way to increase intensity without adding impact to your joints. There are many benefits of exercising in water. In order to move through the medium, it’s found that water provides 4-42 times greater resistance. The buoyancy helps to reduce gravity’s effects on joints as water will support 90 percent of one’s body weight. Give aquatic exercise a try if you’re looking for a great way to reduce joint aches and pains.
Change It Up!
Variety is a great way to combat arthritis as well as boredom. One of the hardest things to overcome when starting to exercise is the monotony of doing the same thing over and over. Try a variety of forms of exercise such as yoga, Pilates, aerobics, resistance training, and a multitude of group fitness classes. Each exercise you choose will have a specific impact on the body. By changing up your mode of exercise, you’ll avoid putting too much stress on any one joint for too long a duration. Find the types of exercise you enjoy doing and stick with them. You’ll be more inclined to stick with your training regimen if you look forward to doing it each day!
Listen to Your Body!
The best thing you can do when exercising with arthritis is to be in tune with your body. Certain forms of arthritis will affect the body at different times of day. Identify when your body feels its best and try to plan workouts during that time. Also, gauge what is normal arthritic pain and what is unusual pain. If an exercise is causing a joint to become inflamed and painful, stop doing it. Never force a movement or push through the unusual pain as it could lead to further joint damage. If pain and inflammation are compounding after numerous days of exercise, be sure to utilize a rest to provide your body time to recover.
Bonus Tip: Consult a Professional
Navigating which exercises are most beneficial can be difficult. Never think you’re alone in the fight against arthritis. Don’t be afraid to contact a professional, such as a Physical Therapist or Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, to help you out.
We’re looking forward to being at the 2018 Walk to Cure Arthritis at the Phoenix Zoo this Saturday. Stop by the Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy and FAST booth to learn how physical therapy and/or personal training can help you navigate arthritis and get back to the activities you enjoy most.