Living with arthritis can be very painful. Not only is it the most common chronic condition among Americans over 40 years old, but there are over 100 different variants of the disease — and none of them have a cure. Thus, doctors and medical professionals strive to alleviate the symptoms and effects of arthritis pain in their bones and joints, and one of the primary ways they do this is by getting people to exercise.
In this article, we will talk to you about the following topics:
- The benefits of exercise for people who suffer from arthritis
- The best forms of exercise to relieve arthritis pain
- How arthritis sufferers can engage in responsible exercises
Our goal is to give you the tools you need to reduce your arthritis pain through exercise.
How Can Exercise Help with My Arthritis?
We’ve heard it from skeptics before:
“If my body hurts because of my arthritis, how in the world will moving my body help?”
We get it. It seems counterintuitive for people to use their joints as a way to lessen the pain they feel in those joints. However, we have science and research on our side! Multiple studies have shown that engaging in 30-45 minutes of low-impact exercises three or four days a week will dramatically help people with arthritis.
We’ve outlined four key arthritis-specific benefits you can achieve with regular physical activity.
1. Gets Your Joints Moving
The reason your body hurts from the arthritis is that your bones are locking up from not being used. The synovial fluid that lubricates your joints goes still, whereas regular motion encourages the development of fresh joint fluid. It also gets that fluid moving around your joints so they actually work as intended.
Although you may not feel like moving and working your joints, sitting still is perhaps the worst thing you can do when you have arthritis, so get to exercising.
2. Strengthens Your Joints and Bones
Just like regular exercise helps gym rats achieve a perfectly toned physique, it also helps arthritis patients strengthen the muscles that envelop their bones and joints.
Sure, you aren’t aiming to be a bodybuilder, but the idea remains the same — you’re making your body stronger. This sort of strength training is absolutely essential for fighting off your arthritis because when you feel like you have the power to move, it increases the chances that you will actually get up and get moving.
3. Provides More Energy and Endurance
You might be noticing a theme here in that these exercise benefits are cumulative for people with arthritis. And you’d be right! Lubricated joints make it easier to move, and increased mobility leads to greater potential for regular exercise.
When your body is stronger, it leads to both higher energy levels and the ability to do more and for longer stretches of time. This way, you can do more of the activities you set aside because of the arthritis pain: Playing with the grandkids, traveling, and more.
4. Helps with Weight Loss
Ultimately, exercise all leads to increased weight loss. Now, you might be thinking, “I’m here to learn about lowering my arthritis pain, not my waistline!” However, you might not realize that those concepts are closely connected. There is a direct correlation between your weight and your arthritis pain, especially in your knees: The more you weigh, the more you will hurt.
Hence, if you begin to engage in any sort of exercise to help your arthritis pain, you will receive the ancillary benefit of losing some weight and reducing joint stress.
What Sorts of Exercise Help Reduce Arthritis Pain?
Now that we’re all convinced that exercise can directly benefit your arthritis, let’s talk about the types of exercises that are best for you. We recommend a regimen of low-impact activities that get your body moving, but without stressing your joints. These activities emphasize consistency, not speed; fluidity, not frenzy. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Water aerobics
- Yoga (Hatha and Nidra, NOT Bikram or Vinyasa)
- Tai Chi
- Resistance training
Arthritis-friendly exercises should emphasize rhythmic movements that send your joints through their full range of motion. You should avoid activities with hard starts and stops such as running, basketball, “hot” yoga, and high-impact aerobics. You don’t want rough movements or anything too jarring to the body.
How Can I Get the Best Possible Results from My Exercises?
We hope a few of those exercises above appeal to you. We realize not everyone is a fan of gyms or exercise and that getting up and moving again after a period of inactivity can be difficult. That’s why you should be intentional with your efforts and take it easy on yourself.
To that end, we recommend the SMART method created by the Center for Disease Control:
- Start low, go slow. – Begin with 10 minutes a session three days a week and only increase by 10 minutes once you can do the first 10 without pain.
- Modify as needed (but don’t stop). – If you need to slow down, do so. Don’t push through the pain.
- Activities should be “joint-friendly.” – Like we said above, aim for purposeful movements that use your joint’s full range of motion.
- Recognize safety and security. – Know your body’s limits and be comfortable where you do your exercises.
- Talk to a professional. – This last one is crucial. In fact, it’s our baseline recommendation.
You should always talk to your physician and arthritis specialist before you begin any exercise regimen. Those trusted professionals are most in-tune with your current condition, so they will be able to direct you to coaches and trainers in your area who can best meet your needs.
In fact, many personal trainers and practitioners can earn specific certifications for working with people who have arthritis. These experts can tailor their classes and your exercises to your specific situation since what’s good for someone with osteoarthritis might not be effective for someone with rheumatoid arthritis.
Ultimately, exercise is good for your arthritis. It might hurt in the beginning, but that’s pretty normal for anyone starting a brand-new exercise routine. What matters is that you find something that works for you and stick to it. Your joints will appreciate you.