Why Exercise Is so Important When You Have Arthritis

If you’re one of 54 million women and men in the United States with doctor-diagnosed arthritis, your stiff and painful joints may make it difficult for you to accomplish daily tasks, let alone hit the gym or cycle around the park.

But whether you have osteoarthritis, which is the result of wear-and-tear on your joints, or an autoimmune disease called rheumatoid arthritis, exercising those painful joints helps improve your pain and avoid some of the complications of arthritis, too.

At Bryn Medical, our doctors know that if you have arthritis, you may be reluctant to exercise because you’re afraid of further damaging your joints, or because you think it’ll hurt too much. That’s why they work with you to design an exercise program that works with your current level of ability, lifestyle, and environment.

Keeping still causes more pain
You’ve heard the expression “use it or lose it,” and that applies to all of your body, including your joints. When your joints are painful, you may restrict your movements. But when you don’t use a body part and put healthy stress on the bones and surrounding tissues, those tissues and bones start to degenerate.

Your body relies on stress to tell it that you’re still using your joints, so it should keep refreshing them with oxygen, blood, and other healing substances. When you move your joints, all of the components of the joint get healthy stress that triggers the regeneration of tissues, including muscles and bones.

Stronger muscles support your joints
Some of your arthritis pain may arise because your muscles aren’t strong enough to keep your joints stable. When your muscles are strong, they support your body’s weight and distribute it evenly. When your muscles are weak, too much of your body weight can end up on your unsupported joints.

Stronger muscles also help you stay stable and injury-free while improving your balance. To strengthen your muscles, try activities such as:

•  Weightlifting
•  Resistance bands
•  Weight machines
•  Exercise ball workouts
•  Pushups
•  Planks
•  Situps and crunches
•  Squats and lunges

Even if you don’t have access to a gym, you can do many of these strengthening exercises at home.

Cardio gives you energy and melts away pounds
Being overweight stresses your joints and can also dampen your energy levels. Adding cardiovascular exercise into your daily routine strengthens your heart and lungs and gives you more stamina. When combined with a healthy diet, cardio (aka aerobics) helps you take off extra pounds.

Our doctors evaluate your current fitness levels and then either recommend low-impact, moderate-impact, or high-impact cardio. Some choices could include:

•  Walking
•  Cycling
•  Swimming
•  Elliptical or stairs machine
•  Running or jogging
•  Dancing
•  Sports

Try to take a walk of at least 20-30 minutes every day. When your doctor OKs it, add in two to three hours of moderate- to high-impact aerobics per week.

Stretching increases flexibility and range of motion
Even doing gentle shoulder rotations gets blood circulating in your joints, which helps your body repair damage and build healthy new cells. You can use arm circles, leg swings, and turning from side to side gently as a way to warm up and cool down from your other activities.

Stretching your muscles makes them more flexible and resilient, so you’re less liable to get an injury. Always stretch before and after a workout. Other types of exercise that make you more flexible and increase your range of motion include:

•  Yoga
•  Tai chi
•  Pilates
•  Aquatic exercise

To find out how to build healthier, stronger, more flexible joints with a custom-designed exercise program, call us today. You can also reach us with our online Contact Us form or schedule a free consultation by clicking the “Free Consult” button here.

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