According to the Arthritis Foundation, over 50 million Americans struggle with arthritis, a disease that causes joint pain and stiffness. There are many different methods of treating arthritis. While each case is different and requires a personalized treatment plan, for most, exercise is an important component in relieving symptoms.
Why Arthritis and Exercise?
It might seem counterintuitive to exercise if you’re in pain. However, exercise strengthens the muscles around the joints and ligaments and helps to improve joint stability, range of motion, strength, and overall physical well-being. In fact, avoiding exercise can lead to muscle loss and weight gain.
The Physical Therapist
For those suffering from arthritis, a physical therapist (PT) is a valuable member of the medical team. The PT designs an exercise plan which matches the patient’s abilities and focuses on improving flexibility, strength, and coordination. The physical therapist monitors a patient’s progress and suggest ways to further reduce the symptoms associated with arthritis.
How to Begin Exercising with Arthritis
For patients with minimal exercise experience, it’s best to take small steps that are not only physically manageable, but mentally and emotionally agreeable. By exercising with a partner, a patient is also more likely to stick with an exercise program. In addition, patients that enjoy what they’re doing will be more likely to continue the activity on a long-term basis.
There are many different activities that produce similar results. Recommended activities include:
Exercising in water is great for beginners and overweight patients as it relieves the pressure of body weight on the hips and knees.
Walking is easy on the joints, improves circulation, strengthens the heart, and tones muscles.
Stretching and movements that take joints through their full span can help maintain and improve flexibility in the joints.
Aerobic exercise like walking, jogging, bicycling, and swimming strengthen the heart and lungs. Aerobic exercise also helps control weight by burning calories.
Muscle strengthening exercises.
Resistance training builds strong muscles which better support the joints.
By combining low impact aerobics to improve endurance with resistance training to strengthen muscles, most patients with arthritis will feel better both physically and mentally.