Exercising with Arthritis
There are over 100 conditions that fall under the umbrella term of arthritis, and also many different causes. In order to better understand what happens when you suffer from arthritis, let’s take a look at how joints work.
A joint is the place where one bone moves over another bone. Ligaments hold the 2 bones together. Ligaments are like elastic bands, keeping your bones in place and help the muscles contract and relax to make the joint move.
Cartilage covers the bone surface to stop two bones from rubbing directly against each other, and allows the joint to move smoothly and without pain.
The joint is surrounded by a capsule, and the joint cavity contains synovial fluid, which nourishes the joint and cartilage.
People with arthritis have some form of issue with their joints; ether cartilage wearing away, there might me a lack of fluids, autoimmunity, infection or a combination of any number of factors.
Exercise is crucial for individuals living with arthritis. It can help reduce joint pain, increase strength and flexibility and combat fatigue.
Exercise is also important for maintaining bone strength, weight control and improvement of your sense of well-being.
Many people mistakenly believe that exercising will aggravate joint pain and stiffness, that’s not the case. A lack of exercise will make joints more painful and stiff. Keeping your muscles and surrounding tissue strong is vital for maintaining bone support. Staying away from exercise will weaken the supporting muscles and put more stress on your joints.
Exercise options that work well for people with arthritis include:
Walking – Walking has the least impact on joints and will help to maintain joint flexibility.
Yoga – Helps provide pain relief, relax stiff muscles and improve range of motion
Tai Chi – is a gentle Martial Art. The fluid and flowing circular movements will assist with increasing range of motion, and helps to maintain mobility. It will also help you relax.
Cycling – is a good low impact exercise, stationary or outdoors.
Warm water exercise – is a great way to build up strength, relax sore muscles and ease stiff joints. The water helps to support your body while joints are moved through their full range of motion.
An often overlooked and critical factor is a balanced diet. Arriving at and maintaining a healthy bodyweight is important for taking pressure off weight-bearing joints. Losing a couple of excess kilograms can make a huge difference to an individual’s quality of life.
Nutritionists are frequently advising arthritis patients to keep sugary and fatty foods to a minimum. It is important to eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, and whole grains. Omega 3 essential fatty acids are thought to relieve some arthritis symptoms. Common sources of Omega-3 EFAs are oily fish, such as sardines, salmon, herring and trout.
Get the maximum benefit
To get the most out of your exercise program, follow these tips:
Be consistent – Perform exercise regularly in order to see results. Sporadic exercise will not yield results.
Build up gradually – Start at a low intensity and work up to a higher intensity as your symptoms permit. Overdoing it can worsen your symptoms.
Train when symptoms are least distressing – Exercise when stiffness and pain are at a minimum, it’s a matter of personal preference.
Listen to your body – A certain amount of discomfort during exercise can be expected. If you experience pain more than two hours after a training session, your body is signaling that the session was too strenuous. Perform fewer repetitions until your symptoms subside.
If joints feel hot, avoid exercise – Exercise may worsen swollen, warm or tender joints.
Alternate rest with activity – Getting rest is just as important as activity to keep your joints healthy.
Talk to your physical therapist about how you can fit exercise into your current treatment plan in order to give you the most benefit, and without aggravating joint pain.
Do not start any exercise program without the approval of your doctor.
By Letitia Kleynhans