When you’re suffering from arthritis pain, it can be difficult to find exercises that don’t aggravate your symptoms. However, a lack of exercise can actually make your symptoms worse, leading to increased stiffness and swelling in your joints. Finding exercises that work for you and your arthritis not only lets you avoid the problems of a sedentary lifestyle but also lets you enjoy the benefits of improved fitness like weight loss, increased energy, or a better night’s sleep. Here’s how you can incorporate rejuvenating exercises into your life.
The best exercises for people with arthritis all share some common principles.
1. They are low impact.
Low impact exercises like stationary cycling or swimming keep joint stress low even as you increase the aerobic intensity of the activity. This lets you keep your body moving without worsening your arthritis symptoms.
2. You can go at your own pace.
While exercise can be great for alleviating joint pain, you don’t want to overdo it. Exercises that allow you to start at a comfortable intensity and take breaks when you need to are best. If you feel pain or notice swelling in your joints, it’s time to take a break.
3. You can tailor the exercise to your limitations.
Everyone’s ability to exercise can be different, depending on the type (for example, rheumatoid vs. osteoarthritis) or which joints it impacts. Work with your doctor to discover which exercises produce the best results for you without aggravating your specific arthritis.
There are different categories of exercises that fit these principles, including range-of-motion exericises, strength-building exercises, and aerobic exercises.
Range-of-motion exercises increase your flexibility and mobility. As arthritis worsens, pain and joint deterioration can prevent you from moving your joints through their full range of motion. These exercises are aimed at restoring that mobility and can usually be done daily. Some examples include rolling your shoulders forward and backward or raising your arms from your hips to over your head. Move slowly and listen to your body—it’ll let you know if you’re pushing too far!
Strength-building exercises build muscle that can support your joints. The most common example of this kind of exercise is weight training, although bodyweight exercises like pushups can also work well. It is very important to properly warm up and stretch before strength training and to take rest days between workouts to prevent injury. Remember the principles of exercising with arthritis, and workout at an appropriate intensity while taking your arthritis into consideration.
Finally, aerobic exercises include a lot of common exercises we all know like walking, swimming, or bicycling. Aerobic exercises improve your overall fitness, help you lose weight, and improve cardiovascular health. While at least half an hour of aerobic exercise per day is ideal, any amount of exercise is better than none. Find the exercise that suits your life, whether that’s walking in a park, swimming laps at the gym, or riding a stationary bike at home with music playing.
Dr. Jackson’s Advice for Managing Arthritis
Dr. Don-Andre Jackson is an experienced rheumatologist at Griffin Health who treats all types of arthritis. He believes in the ability of patients to successfully manage their arthritis by creating a comprehensive plan with their doctor:
Arthritis is one of the most prevalent conditions in the US population, but most arthritises are manageable and easily treated if evaluated by a rheumatologist. Chronic joint pain does not have to ruin your quality of life, and my hope is that during your visit, I am able to provide comprehensive care for all of your joint complaints and work with you to manage them successfully.
Once you get into an exercise routine, the benefits are endless! Exercise will boost your energy levels during the day, while also helping you get a better sleep at night. Exercise is also an important factor in weight loss, which can have a significant impact on your arthritis. A greater bodyweight increases the stress on your joints, which in turn can worsen your arthritis. Most importantly, exercise improves your overall quality of life when arthritis is threatening to slow you down! Find out how our rheumatologist can keep you moving!