Exercising With Arthritis
What Is Arthritis?
Arthritis is a joint disorder causing inflammation and pain of joints. There can be swelling and tenderness in one or more joints of the body.
A joint is part of the body where two or more bones meet. Joints hold the skeleton together, and their function is to support the movement. Since Arthritis causes pain and stiffness limiting the functioning of joints, it thus impacts ease of movement. It can afflict men, women, children, and adults.
Arthritis can be of different types, and the most commonly known are Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis. According to the Arthritis Foundation (US), there are more than 100 types of Arthritis and related conditions. Depending upon the type of Arthritis, signs, and symptoms may vary and include:
- Reduced range of motion
Symptoms can be intermittent, mild, moderate or severe and can progress over time, resulting in chronic pain and inability to perform daily chores. Left unaddressed, it can cause permanent changes to joints.
Can/Should One Exercise With Arthritis?
Along with the early and accurate diagnosis, medications and therapies, Exercise plays a powerful role in keeping the progression of symptoms and conditions in check.
Physical activity has a positive effect on controlling pain and improving functioning.
This also improves mental health along with the physical, since chronic pain can have a wearing down effect.
Combined with the right nutrition and other necessary modalities, exercise can provide physiological and psychological benefits in better management of Arthritis and hence, a better quality of life.
Potential Benefits Of Exercise In Arthritis Management
Even though someone with Arthritis may experience some short-term increment in pain initially at the onset of exercising, regular physical activity can yield long-term gains in reducing pain and enhancing functionality. Some benefits of exercise include:
- Makes muscles around joints stronger, aiding in their function
- Helps decelerate the bone loss
- Helps replenish lubrication to the cartilage/joints
- Enhances energy levels and stamina
- Reduces physical and mental fatigue
- Improves sleep quality
- Helps weight loss and weight management, reducing pressure on joints
- Reduces anxiety and stress, thus enhancing relaxation and the general feeling of wellbeing
- Provides physical, mental, and emotional support and greater stability
Safe Exercising With Arthritis
*Before beginning with any physical activity/exercise program, please consult your doctor. Seek guidance from someone knowledgeable about exercise prescription for Arthritis and similar joint conditions.*
The approach towards exercising for someone with Arthritis should be to address the functional deficits caused by it.
Exercises that are gentle on the joints/low impact help promote the joint range of motion, flexibility, muscular strength, and aerobic endurance need to be practiced in a safe, progressive and structured manner.
Stretching, Walking, Yoga, Tai Chi, Pilates, Cycling, Swimming, Water exercises, Strength Training, Resistance Bands exercises etc., are some good options.
How Often To Exercise?
While one’s Arthritis condition and exercise response could vary, some general exercising guidelines are mentioned below.
Flexibility/Range Of Motion Exercises: Can be done on a daily basis. Start with 5-10 repetitions of each exercise. Doing these in the morning is especially beneficial as it gets joints moving. Stretching exercises can be done at least 4-5 days a week. Hold stretches for 15-20 seconds.
Strengthening Exercises: Can be done every other day; 1 set (8-15 reps) of 8-10 exercises for major muscle groups of the body.
Aerobic (Endurance) Exercises: 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week, spread out over days of the week. You can accumulate exercise at 10-minute intervals throughout the day if a sustained activity is difficult.
Important Points To Bear In Mind:
- Start slow and progress gradually. Progress or regress an activity as per individual ability. Alternate activity with rest as and how needed. With time capacity to exercise for longer spells will increase.
- Warm-up well before starting activity/exercise session
- Avoid high-impact activities and repetitive, rapid loading/movements of affected joints. Mobilize joints while keeping them protected from sudden or too much stress.
- If there is an escalation in symptoms (pain/inflammation/redness etc.), consult your doctor and ease off till they settle.
- Stretch well after each session to allow joints and muscles to relax.
Arthritis need not spell defeat in living one’s life to the best of ability. Choose an activity/exercise program you enjoy and make it a lifestyle for the best results. Embrace the therapeutic effects of movement and enhance your quality of life!
About Vani Pahwa
Vani B. Pahwa is Health & Wellness Evangelist, and Founder, Body In Motion, who specializes in Functional-Fitness, and Cancer Exercise & Rehabilitation. With almost 2 decades of experience, and certifications from leading internationally-accredited and globally-recognized fitness institutions, Vani is the leading Wellness Expert for Multinational Corporations and is a recognized Speaker and Coach. An Indian Classical Dancer, Vani encompasses her learnings from dance to everyday movement making “exercise and training for life, not just events.” To know more about Vani and her premium wellness services, visit https://www.bodyinmotion.in