Exercise and arthritis can and should coexist. Now, if you’re one of the estimated 54 million that live with arthritis, exercise may sound like a terrible idea. On the contrary, exercise has been proven to reduce pain, increase energy, improve sleep and overall day to day function in those who regularly participate in an exercise program. Too often, in cases of arthritis, the thought of pain with movement quickly causes people to become very inactive. This has a tremendous domino effect, thereby, weakening muscles and bones, further stiffening joints and limiting normal mobility. Beyond the arthritis related problems, are the other health related risks that quickly increase by being inactive such as Type II diabetes, cardiovascular problems and osteoporosis.
Starting off slowly with a low intensity, low impact exercise routine is key. Another helpful strategy is to have multiple exercise options or locations. For example, many counties offer community based programs which is a great motivator in getting out of the house and socializing with others while enjoying all the benefits of exercise. Generally, those with arthritis need to increase their exercise more gradually than those without it. It’s important to perform exercises that don’t increase your pain. Yes, that’s right, the appropriate exercises shouldn’t hurt. Muscle soreness is one thing, pain is another.
If you’ve tried to exercise and had to stop because it hurt, consider working with a physical therapist. Success can be had with the right exercises, done with the correct amount of weight, repetitions and sets. Being advised on proper posture, form and execution is also crucial in avoiding painful exercise and maximizing the benefits of all of your physical effort. The research is out there, exercise is one of the best ways to decrease pain, stiffness and improve range of motion and quality of life.