Arthritis is a common condition that affects millions of people worldwide. It is characterized by joint inflammation, pain, stiffness, and decreased mobility. There are several different types of arthritis, with osteoarthritis being the most common form. Many people consider it just a “normal” part of aging, however, many experts now suggest that this is erroneous thinking. While there are various remedies available to manage arthritis, there is one that is often overlooked: exercise. This is despite its significant potential for providing relief and improving overall function.
Understanding Arthritis and its Impact
More than 58 million adults in the United States are estimated to suffer from arthritis. Arthritis can severely impact an individual’s quality of life. The pain and stiffness associated with the condition can limit mobility and prevent participation in daily activities. Over time, joint degeneration may worsen, leading to further disability and decreased independence. Exploring different treatment options to control symptoms and slow disease progression is crucial. (1)
The Power of Exercise in Managing Arthritis
Exercise is vital in managing arthritis as it offers numerous benefits that can positively impact physical and mental well-being. Regular exercise can help alleviate pain, reduce stiffness, improve joint flexibility, and increase overall strength. Moreover, exercise can aid in maintaining a healthy weight, reducing the strain on the joints and consequently decreasing pain.
Beyond treating arthritis, regular exercise can help prevent the condition. Exercise can help prevent arthritis by improving muscle strength, flexibility and cardiovascular endurance. Exercise also helps to maintain a healthy weight, which is important for preventing joint stress and injury.
How Much Is The Right Amount?
The CDC recommends that adults aged 18 to 64 get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week, and those 65 and older get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity on most days of the week. They also say that 75 minutes per week of vigorous physical activity will suffice. Aerobic activity is any physical activity that uses large muscle groups continuously, such as brisk walking, swimming, or cycling. (2)
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It is crucial to note that some exercises may be more suitable for certain individuals based on their specific condition and overall fitness level. Before starting any new exercise regimen, it is advised to consult with a healthcare professional or a certified physical therapist who can provide guidance tailored to individual needs. (3)
- Low-impact Aerobic Exercises: Activities such as walking, swimming, and cycling are gentle on the joints, yet help maintain cardiovascular fitness and overall endurance.
- Range-of-Motion and Flexibility Exercises: These exercises aim to improve joint flexibility and decrease stiffness. Examples include gentle stretching, yoga, Pilates, and tai chi.
- Strength Training: Strengthening exercises help build muscle around the joints, providing added support. Using resistance bands or light weights can be effective in improving strength without placing excessive strain on the joints.
Exercises to Avoid
While exercise is generally beneficial for arthritis management, certain activities may exacerbate symptoms and should be avoided:
- High-impact Exercises: Activities such as running, jumping, and intense sports can put excessive stress on the joints, leading to increased pain and potential joint damage.
- Repetitive Motions: Repetitive movements, such as frequent bending and twisting, can strain the joints and worsen symptoms. It is important to vary movements and take breaks to minimize stress on the joints.
- Heavy Weightlifting: Lifting heavy weights can be detrimental to joints affected by arthritis. If strength training is incorporated into the exercise routine, it is advised to use lighter weights or resistance bands to avoid unnecessary strain.
All of this said, if you are using exercise as a preventative measure and have no signs of arthritis, then these higher-impact exercises can be beneficial. Again, this is if they are done so in a balanced way and along with appropriate exercises to keep the strength and mobility of the whole body in check.
Getting Started and Staying Motivated
Starting an exercise routine for arthritis management can be challenging, but it is important to remember that even small amounts of physical activity can make a significant difference. Begin slowly and gradually increase the intensity and duration of exercises. Find activities that are enjoyable to stay motivated and consider joining arthritis-friendly exercise classes or support groups.
The Bottom Line
Exercise holds immense potential in managing arthritis symptoms, improving joint function, and enhancing overall well-being. Despite being often overlooked, incorporating regular exercise into an arthritis management plan can significantly positively impact pain relief, mobility, and quality of life. Remember to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the most suitable exercise regimen based on your specific needs and limitations. By taking proactive steps to incorporate exercise into daily routine, individuals can take control of their arthritis and substantially improve their overall health and well-being.
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- Exercise to Ease Arthritis Pain.” “CDC“CDC
- “Physical Activity for Arthritis.” CDC
- “Exercise helps ease arthritis pain and stiffness.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic Staff