Exercising with Arthritis
When you have arthritis, it can be difficult to stay active. The pain in your joints means even simple exercises are a chore. But it’s also important to keep moving. According to the Mayo Clinic, exercising with arthritis will increase flexibility, combat fatigue, and ultimately reduce joint pain. Diving headfirst into calisthenics isn’t the way to go about it, however. These are a few simple exercises to do during arthritis flares.
NOTE: always check with your doctor before engaging in physical activity.
Aerobic exercises like biking or swimming help with your stamina and energy and improve cardiovascular health. The same is true for most endurance training. Using an elliptical machine or going for walks are also good examples. Ideally, you’d want to do 150 minutes of aerobic exercise a week, but don’t jump straight in. Work your way up, exercising in 10-minute chunks.
To relieve stiffness and restore your full range of motion, try doing a few simple repetitions. Even something as basic as raising your arms over your head or rolling your shoulders have benefits. These exercises should be done daily. (Even if you don’t have arthritis, these movements will also help anybody who sits for extended periods of time.)
Lifting weights sounds like a daunting task, but nobody’s asking you to go straight to the 100s on your first session. Start small but stay consistent. Most strength training programs suggest working the same muscle region three times a week, but you really only need to do it twice a week to keep your momentum going. Also avoid working the same muscle groups multiple days in a row, as it will aggravate existing pain.
Walking backwards may sound easy, but it’s a struggle for longer distances. That’s what makes it such a perfect activity for training your balance. If you’re at risk of falling (which is common with those with arthritis), balance exercises will keep you upright. Other similar exercises include tai chi or even just standing on one foot.
Tying into the above, you lose a great deal of your flexibility as your joints are affected by arthritis. Whether you do yoga or simply a few morning stretches, flexibility training will restore your range of motion and combat joint stiffness.
This one may sound a bit odd, but daily tasks like doing the dishes or walking the dog are perfect ways to promote exercise without exerting too much effort. After all, you need to do these jobs anyway! Not only will smaller tasks like these help you maintain your gains on your off days. And before you know it, that pile of dishes that made your fingers ache will soon be clean with little pain.
Yes, really. Both console and computer gaming challenges your dexterity and encourages you to stretch out your hands and fingers. With “interactive” systems like the Nintendo Wii, you can also indulge in physical activity without leaving the house. After all, who doesn’t enjoy a rousing game of Wii bowling? Nintendo even funded a study proving three of the Wii Sports minigames (bowling, tennis, and baseball) all count as moderate-intensity exercise.
Arthritis is, quite literally, a pain. But it’s a pain that can be overcome with patience and discipline. With Just maybe stick to rock climbing indoors first.