Research has shown that exercise is an essential tool in managing arthritis
Arthritis is a chronic painful condition effecting one or more joints that usually remains for a long time and sometimes for the rest of your life. Having a positive mental outlook and the support of family and friends will help you live with arthritis and be able to continue to perform your daily activities. It was thought for many years that if you had arthritis you should not exercise because it would damage your joints. Now research has shown that exercise is an essential tool in managing your arthritis.
Regular, moderate exercise offers a whole host of benefits to people with arthritis. Exercise reduces joint pain and stiffness, builds strong muscle around the joints, and increases flexibility and endurance. It also helps promote overall health and fitness by giving you more energy, helping you sleep better, controlling your weight, decreasing depression, and giving you more self-esteem. Furthermore, exercise can help stave off other health problems such as osteoporosis and heart disease.
Starting an exercise programme can seem like a daunting proposition. The important thing to remember is to start slow and make it fun.
An exercise programme can include anything from walking around the block, taking a yoga class, or playing a round of golf. With this communication you have been given all the information you will need on how to start exercising and the proper way to incorporate exercise into the management of your arthritis.
Whatever exercise programme you decide on you should always consult with your doctor before start it. A physiotherapist also can help you develop an exercise program that fits your specific needs. A physiotherapist can also show you the proper techniques and precautions when performing certain types of exercise.
- Flexibility (stretching, range-of-motion) exercises,
- Strengthening (resistance) exercises, and
- Cardiovascular (aerobic) exercise.
Keep in mind that during a flare i.e. when a joint is warm, increasingly painful and/or swollen, one should not do any exercises
1. Flexibility (stretching, range-of-motion) exercises: These gentle stretching exercises should be done every day and are the most important of all your exercises. Flexibility exercises can help you protect your joints by reducing the risk of joint injury, help you warm-up for more strenuous exercise by getting your body moving, and help you relax and release tension from your body. These exercises are useful for easing those stiff joints in the morning. Good range-of-motion exercises include free-hand physical training [PT] exercises and yoga. Work up to 15 minutes of flexibility exercises a day. Once you can do 15 continuous minutes, you should be able to add strengthening and aerobic exercises to your routine.
2. Strengthening (resistance) exercises: When you have arthritis, you need strong muscles ligaments to lessen the stress on your joints. Strengthening exercises can help build your muscles and ligaments so that they can absorb shock and protect your joints from injury, as well as help you get around better. These exercises use weight or resistance to make your muscles work harder thereby helping them gets stronger.
There are two types of strengthening exercises: isometric and isotonic. Isometric exercises are good for people with arthritis because they work by tightening the muscles without moving the joint. It is easy to target the muscles around the joints with isometric exercises, and that reduces stress on your joints. Isotonic exercises strengthen the muscles by moving the joint; for example, straightening your knee while sitting in a chair is an isotonic exercise that helps strengthen your thigh muscle. You can make these exercises more efficient, when you are feeling better, by adding weights or resistance. Strengthening exercises should be done after warming up with some flexibility exercises. These strengthening exercises may be done everyday or every alternate day depending on the severity/status of arthritis and/or other medical condition you have.
3. Cardiovascular (aerobic) exercises: Cardiovascular (aerobic or endurance) exercise is any physical activity that uses the large muscles of the body in rhythmic, continuous motions. This includes walking, dancing, swimming and bicycling, among others.
The purpose of these exercises is to burn calories and make your heart, lungs, blood vessels and muscles work more efficiently. They also can result in improved endurance, stronger bones, improved sleep, controlled weight and reduced stress, depression and anxiety.
Try to include aerobic activity in your fitness programme three to four times each week, with a goal of working in your target heart rate for 30 minutes each session. You can work up to this goal slowly, starting with as little as five minutes and increasing as you get stronger and are able. If you have tried exercising before, but were unsuccessful, don’t make a mistake by trying the same way this time. Do something new. Pick activities you can easily work into your day or find a friend to exercise with. Sometimes this makes the exercise more a natural part of your day or gives you someone to encourage you when you need it. You can also join an exercise group.
There are other specific exercises that might benefit you. Discuss with the doctor before beginning any new exercise programme.
Swimming or water exercise is a very good exercise for an arthritic patient
Because there are many effective and safe ways to minimise pain and loss of motion from arthritis, you need to work with your doctor and other appropriate health professionals to develop an effective, individualised treatment programme.