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The Importance of Exercise When You Have Arthritis

Most people know that arthritis affects your joints, but you may not know that there are more than 100 different kinds of arthritis. Your joints and all of the tissues surrounding your joints can be affected by arthritis. 

Roughly 54 million adults have been diagnosed with arthritis, and experts expect that by 2040, some 78 million people will have some form of the disease. That’s more than 25% of American adults! 

Chronic joint pain can make it difficult to do very simple things that most people take for granted. It can limit your life and steal the activities you enjoy, as well as the obligations you meet. 

When you find it difficult to walk up your stairs, or even around the block, you may not feel motivated to exercise. However, keeping your joints moving is an important part of remaining able to open a jar, get in and out of the car, weed your garden, or play with your grandchildren. In other words, exercise can make it possible to continue doing the things you want and need to do. 

Exercise is therapy 

Your arthritis symptoms may be different from your neighbor’s or friend’s. Intensity and severity vary, both among individuals and from day-to-day. The one thing that people with arthritis share is having stiff, aching joints. For some people, arthritis pain only affects one or two joints; for others, the problem affects virtually every joint in their body. 

Without treatment, chronic joint pain can restrict your mobility, making it difficult to do routine tasks. 

You may be tempted to protect your aching joints, to let them rest, and to avoid movements that are uncomfortable. The problem with that approach is that it leads to a sedentary lifestyle which serves to diminish your strength, minimize your flexibility, deplete your energy, and further limit your mobility. Inactive arthritic joints are much more likely to become stiffer, or even to freeze. 

Regular exercise can help to strengthen and tone the muscles and connective tissues that support your joints. It also increases joint lubrication and decreases inflammation to help take the edge off chronic arthritis pain and stiffness. 

Sticking to a consistent exercise routine can help you reach and maintain a healthy body weight, too. Being a healthy weight reduces stress on your joints, especially your hips, knees, ankles, and feet. 

Exercise choices for your joint health 

Low-impact exercise is the best way to support your joints. It can help you build muscle, improve your flexibility, and increase your endurance. Here are some exercise options that benefit your joints: 

Water sports

If you have access to a pool, take advantage of it. Getting in the water is one of the best things you can do for your joints. Whether you swim, perform water aerobics, or take advantage of the resistance of the water as you walk back and forth, water exercise is ideal for your joints because it allows you to strengthen, tone, and stretch your muscles without impacting or overworking your joints. 

Cycling

Whether you choose to ride a bike outside or participate in indoor cycling, it will help to stabilize your knee joints by strengthening your quadriceps, as well as improving your overall leg strength. Riding any kind of bike also encourages increased lubrication in your hip, knee, and ankle joints. 

Walking or hiking

You already know how to walk, you don’t need any special equipment, and you can speed or or slow down as needed. Walk around your neighborhood, explore walking trails, or even head to the mall. Varied terrain, walking at different speeds, or using trekking poles are ways to up the intensity and challenge of your walks. 

Classic exercises

Remember doing squats, lunges, pushups, and planks in PE class? Those classic body weight exercises can strengthen and tone every major muscle group in your body. These kinds of exercises are simple and they can be modified to fit any level of fitness, which makes them ideal whether you’re a beginning exerciser or you’ve been at it for years. 

Flexibility training

If you think of stretching as something you do to warm up or cool down, you may want to reconsider. Focused flexibility training can help ease your joint pain. Taking a yoga class or even doing videos at home can help you decompress and stabilize your joints. 

If you have questions about your specific situation and what kinds of exercise is safe for you to do, book an appointment at Elite Integrative Medical. We’re happy to help you identify exercises that you enjoy and will do consistently. You can request an appointment online, or by calling us a 310-626-1399.

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