Should I Exercise With Arthritis?
Nearly all of us have a friend or family member that is affected by arthritis. Some of you reading this may have arthritis yourself. We know that arthritis can cause our joints to feel stiff and painful. When feeling this way we may not feel inclined to exercise or even do daily tasks around our house. In fact, it seems to many of us that exercising with arthritis will just cause more pain. This is actually entirely untrue. Exercising with arthritis has a wide range of benefits and can greatly improve quality of life.
What is arthritis?
According to the Arthritis Foundation, arthritis is actually an umbrella term used for a group of more than 100 medical conditions that collectively affect nearly 46 million adults and 300,000 children in America alone. The common thread among these 100-plus conditions is that they all affect the musculoskeletal system and specifically the joints - where two or more bones meet. Arthritis-related joint problems include pain, stiffness, inflammation and damage to joint cartilage (the tough, smooth tissue that covers the ends of the bones, enabling them to glide against one another) and surrounding structures. Such damage can lead to joint weakness, instability and visible deformities that, depending on the location of joint involvement, can interfere with the most basic daily tasks such as walking, climbing stairs, using a computer keyboard, cutting your food or brushing your teeth ("Arthritis foundation," 2014).
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis.
Why is exercise beneficial?
Everyone with arthritis should exercise in some form to become empowered with the benefits it has to offer. If done appropriately, exercising will reduce the symptoms of arthritis like joint pain, stiffness and fatigue. Exercising will help maintain a healthy weight, reduce the risk of injury, increase energy and improve day to day function.
Unfortunately, not exercising will enhance the symptoms of arthritis. A lack of exercise weakens the surrounding muscles, creating more stress on the affected joints.
What should my exercise program include?
After receiving permission from your doctor, your exercise program should include three main types of exercise: flexibility/mobility, stability/strength and aerobic cardiovascular training.
- Relieve stiffness
- Increase ability to move joint through full range of motion (like moving your arm over your head)
- Maintain bone strength
- Strengthen muscle and surrounding tissue to assist joints
- Improve overall fitness
- Improve heart health
- Control weight
- Improve stamina
CPT, CES, BS Exercise Science
Arthritis foundation. (2014). Retrieved March 3, 2104, from http://www.arthritis.org/about-us/arthritis-is/