Regular, modest exercise improves joint stability and strengthens muscles, according to the December issue of Mayo Clinic Women’s HealthSource. Exercise also improves mood, sleep, energy levels and day-to-day functioning. Best of all, people with arthritis who exercise regularly report less pain.
When a person avoids exercise, joints become less mobile and the surrounding muscles shrink, causing increased fatigue and pain.
A physical therapist or personal trainer can tailor exercise programs to health conditions and fitness levels. The key is to choose safe, appropriate activities and to take it slowly at first. A variety of activities can be safe and helpful for people with arthritis, including:
— Range-of-motion exercises: My best suggestion to increase joint mobility in a healthy way is MAT. Doing range-of-motion exercises in the evening can also reduce joint stiffness the next morning.
— Low-impact aerobics: Aerobic exercise improves overall fitness and endurance as well as muscle function and joint stability. Low-impact options include water aerobics, swimming, bicycling, walking or using equipment such as treadmills and elliptical trainers.
— Strengthening: Strength training builds the muscles around the joints to provide better support. These exercises may be done with one’s own body weight for resistance, with hand-held weights, resistance bands or weight machines.
— Lifestyle: Many everyday activities — gardening and housework — provide the health benefits of moderate physical activities.
For those with joint damage, some high-impact activities can make arthritis pain worse. It’s wise to consult with a physician before starting a new exercise regimen. Exercising should be stopped when it increases pain or swelling; causes joint popping, locking or giving way; leads to abdominal, groin or chest pain; or results in moderate-to-intense shortness of breath.