Physical activity alleviates arthritis pain and stiffness

Understanding the Importance of Exercise

It can feel safer, or necessary, to stop moving when arthritis pain strikes. But engaging in the right kinds of exercise not only enhances overall health and fitness but also contributes to an improved quality of life when integrated into a treatment program. This includes the following benefits:

  1. Strengthening muscles around joints.
  2. Maintaining bone strength.
  3. Increasing energy levels.
  4. Facilitating better sleep.
  5. Controlling weight.
  6. Improving balance.
  7. Enhancing mood.

Strong muscles are crucial for supporting bones, and neglecting exercise weakens these supportive muscles, leading to increased stress on joints.

Consult with Your Healthcare Provider

Before incorporating exercise into your routine, consult with your healthcare provider. The choice of exercises depends on the type of arthritis and the specific joints affected. Collaborating with a healthcare professional, such as a physical therapist, can help tailor an exercise plan suited to your individual needs.

Arthritis Exercises

Arthritis exercises encompass activities that promote full joint motion and strengthening exercises. Aerobic exercise, which raises the heart rate, is also vital.

  1. Range-of-motion exercises: These reduce stiffness and involve moving joints through their full range of motion, such as stretching arms or rolling shoulders.
  2. Strengthening exercises: These build strong muscles to support and protect joints. Weight training, utilizing resistance bands, hand weights, or machines, is beneficial.
  3. Aerobic exercise: Activities like walking, bicycling, swimming, and water aerobics contribute to overall fitness. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise per week, working up gradually. 

Other Activities

Every movement, regardless of size, contributes to joint health. Daily activities like mowing the lawn, raking leaves, and walking the dog count. Gentle forms of yoga or tai chi improve balance, posture, prevent falls, and alleviate tension.

Protecting Your Joints

For those who have been inactive, initiate exercise gradually to avoid overworking muscles and exacerbating joint pain. Consider the following tips:

  1. Keep the impact low: Opt for low-impact exercises like stationary bicycling, elliptical trainer workouts, or water-based exercises.
  2. Use heat: Apply warm towels, hot packs, or a warm shower for about 20 minutes before exercise to relax joints and muscles.
  3. Move gently: Begin with gentle joint movements and range-of-motion exercises before progressing to more intense activities.
  4. Go slowly: Perform exercises with slow and easy movements, taking breaks if pain occurs.
  5. Ice afterward: Apply ice for up to 20 minutes after activity, especially if joints are swollen.
  6. Listen to your body: Avoid pushing too hard, gradually building up intensity and difficulty.

Avoid Overexertion

After exercise, some pain and stiffness may occur if you've been inactive. If pain persists for more than two hours, adjustments to the exercise routine may be needed. Individuals with rheumatoid arthritis should consult their providers regarding exercise during flares, potentially focusing on range-of-motion exercises or water-based activities to maintain mobility.

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