Frequently Asked Questions About Exercise for Arthritis

Dec 17, 2020

About 54.4 million adult Americans suffer from some form of arthritis, with 23.7 million of them experiencing symptoms that limit their physical function and reduce their quality of life. Fortunately, a well-considered exercise regimen can help many of these individuals regain their flexibility, strength, and comfort.

As helpful as exercise may prove, you may hesitate due to worries over hurting yourself or pursuing the wrong kinds of activities. If you want to start exercising to improve your arthritis symptoms but don’t know where to begin, check out the answers to the following frequently asked questions on the subject.

Why Do You Need to Exercise Your Arthritic Joints?

It might seem odd to treat stiff, painful joints by forcing them to move, and even to bear your weight, on a more frequent basis. In reality, you actually do those joints a great favor by exercising them. Joint motion triggers the joints to produce more of the natural lubricant that reduces painful, destructive friction between bones.

Exercise also helps slow the progress of arthritis’s effects on your overall physical balance and stability. The more stiffly and unsurely you get around, the greater your risk for sustaining dangerous falls. Regular exercise that lends your joints strength and flexibility can help you avoid accidents.

How Do Stretches Help With Arthritis?

If you’ve struggled with arthritis for any length of time, you know that it makes joints feel stiff, creaky, and unresponsive. Part of this stiffness may stem from short, tight, underused muscles that restrict your range of motion. Stretching exercises can lengthen and loosen these muscles, improving your pain-free flexibility.

The two primary categories of stretches that can help with arthritis include static stretches and dynamic stretches. Static stretches, such as arm raises, neck tilts, and side bends, involve holding a stretch for 30 to 60 seconds. Dynamic stretches, such as ankle and arm circles, involve fluid, continuous motions.

How Does Strength Training Help You Manage Arthritis?

Many individuals with arthritis also suffer from muscle shortening weakness, either as a side effect of aging or because they avoid using the affected joints. Strength training enables your muscles and connective tissues to support your joints more thoroughly, which takes some of the strain off of bones and cartilage.

Strength training for arthritis doesn’t require any special equipment. You can exercise your thigh muscle, for instance, simply by getting up from a chair using only those muscles then sitting back down and repeating the exercise. Stronger thigh muscles take stress away from arthritic knees.

How Does Aerobic Exercise Ease Arthritis Pain?

Aerobic exercise increases your heart and respiratory rates through regular, repetitive muscle motion. Common examples of aerobic exercise include walking, jogging, cycling, dancing, and aquatic exercises. Even everyday chores such as mowing the lawn can serve as aerobic exercise.

Light or moderate aerobic exercise can ease arthritis and boost overall wellness. This form of exercise helps you maintain heart and lung function while also losing unwanted pounds (which can greatly ease the stress on weight-bearing joints). Aerobic exercise combined with strength training can reduce inflammation.

Why Should You Consult Your Rheumatologist Before Exercising?

Certain types of exercises can do more harm than good to an arthritic body, especially if yours also happens to suffer from other underlying health complaints. For instance, jumping exercises and other exercises that place excessive strain on worn cartilage can actually worsen the damage.

Always discuss your exercise options with your rheumatologist before you begin a training regimen. This specialist can steer you toward the right kinds of low-impact exercises for your particular joint condition and baseline health. You may also receive a referral to a physical therapist or other training expert.

Sarasota Arthritis Center can advise you on all aspects of your arthritis management strategies, from exercise and nutritional counseling to infusion therapy. Contact our office today to get started.

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