Doing just one kind of exercise is a bit like eating only one kind of food: It kind of gets the job done, but it also leads to boredom and imbalance. This is especially true if you are living with arthritis, which requires a good mix of flexibility, strength and endurance to combat symptoms. Here’s what to keep in mind when you’re discovering what kinds of exercise work for you, to help you feel good and live the life you want.
Stretching is job one if you want to maintain or improve range of motion in your joints and cut down on joint stiffness. Yoga, tai chi and simple stretches like reaching your arms up and then touching your toes are all good choices.
Warm up with walking or another activity before you stretch. If you lift weights, stretch between sets. Don’t bounce when you hold a stretch. Hold each stretch for 20 to 30 seconds to help lengthen muscle fibres (tight, short muscles can be a major part of arthritis pain).
When you make your muscles stronger, you also make your joints more stable. Plus, your bones get stronger and are properly positioned. Using resistance bands or tubing, light weights or even soup cans are great ways to strength train. You can also do Pilates or exercise in water.
Start off with a lesson on proper form, and use slow, controlled movements, counting to four on the way up and again on the way down. Aim for a set of 8 to 12 repetitions for each movement.
Aerobic exercise improves your endurance, because your lungs take in more oxygen, your heart pumps more blood to spread that oxygen around and your body converts that oxygen to energy more efficiently. The payoff: decreased inflammation, as well as better mood, stamina, metabolism and energy. Walking, swimming, cycling and aquatic exercise are all excellent ways to build endurance.
Running and other high-impact activities are most likely not going to work for you. Remember that household chores like raking leaves and mowing the lawn count as endurance activities too.
Top 10 Arthritis Exercises
Fit in exercise just about anywhere in short 5-10 minute sessions. Try these Top Arthritis 10 Exercises.
Top 10 Arthritis Exercises (180 KB)