Submitted by Carol Tomlinson, RN BS
Community Health Educator
4 Ways Exercise Helps Arthritis
According to the Arthritis Foundation, physical activity is the best non-drug treatment for improving pain and function for people with osteoarthritis. The good news is that you don’t have to run a marathon or become an Olympic competitor to help reduce the symptoms of arthritis. Even gentle exercise can help maintain joint function, relieve stiffness and reduce pain.
Along with your current arthritis treatment program, exercise can:
- Strengthen the muscles around your joints
- Help you maintain bone strength
- Give you more energy to get through your day
- Make it easier to get a good night’s sleep
- Help to control your weight
- Improve your sense of well-being
If you have arthritis, you want to be sure your exercise routine has these goals in mind:
- Better Range Of Motion (improved joint mobility and flexibility): These exercises involve moving your joints gently through their normal range of movement, such as raising your arms over your head or rolling your shoulders forward and backward.
- Stronger Muscles (through resistance training and strengthening exercises): Fancy equipment is not necessary, but you should ask your doctor or physical therapist to recommend exercises to give you the most benefit with the least aggravation to your joints.
- Better Endurance: Aerobic exercise such as walking, swimming and bicycling strengthens your heart and lungs and thereby increases your endurance and overall health. Stick to activities that don’t jar your joints, and avoid high-impact activities such as jogging.
- Better Balance: Improving your balance is the key to preventing injuries from falls. According to CDC research, Tai Chi for arthritis is one of the most effective fall prevention activities. Movements are slow, relatively simple and joint sparing. They are designed to strengthen your core, improve balance and even memory.
Start slowly to ease your joints into exercise if you haven’t been active for a while. Move joints gently at first to warm up. For example, you might begin with range of motion exercises before moving on to strengthening or aerobic exercise.
Remember – arthritis doesn’t have to keep you from enjoying life. According to the Arthritis Foundation, the bottom line is that mild to moderate exercise is beneficial for people with osteoarthritis. However, everyone’s circumstances are different, so having a discussion with your doctor is important. Together with your doctor and/or physical therapist, you can design an exercise program that is right for you.
HealthLink has certified Tai Chi For Arthritis instructors and offers ongoing classes. For more information on these, call 736-1120. You can e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org, see our website at nlh.org, or visit our NEW wellness center at 2 Colonial Court in downtown Johnstown, Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. We’re your community health & wellness service of Nathan Littauer Hospital and Nursing Home.