Understanding Arthritis and the Benefits of Physical Activity
That’s right, the best medicine for arthritis is physical activity. Regular physical activity has countless benefits. And if you’ve been diagnosed with arthritis, understanding Arthritis is one of the most important steps you can take to help yourself. Knowing the benefits of regular physical activity and following up with that knowledge can help you stay active for a long time.
Being inactive is not an option for those of us with arthritis so be sure to use it as a motivator, and not an excuse. Participating in physical activity improves pain, function, mood, and quality of life without making symptoms worse. Above all, being physically active can delay the onset of disability. Another benefit is that it will help people manage other chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
Safe, enjoyable physical activity is possible for most adults with arthritis. If you have arthritis you can safely exercise on your own or join one of many programs available in your community.
Watch the Arthritis Pain Reliever video to learn more about the benefits of physical activity and the types and amounts of exercise that can help. And be sure to check with your doctor to be sure your exercise plans are approved for your form of arthritis. For instance, with osteoarthritis of the hip, my doctor warned against jumping exercises. It was then that I realized it was my new jump rope that was causing of my pain. When I stopped jumping and started the lateral elliptical, my symptoms improved tremendously.
Exercise as a Treatment
Research shows that exercise is one of the best treatments for osteoarthritis. Exercise can improve mood and outlook, decrease pain, increase flexibility, strengthen the heart and improve blood flow, maintain weight, and promote general physical fitness.
Additionally, exercise is inexpensive and, if done correctly, has few negative side effects. The amount and form of exercise prescribed will depend on which joints are involved, how stable the joints are, and whether a joint replacement has already been done.
Walking, swimming, and water aerobics are a few popular types of exercise for people with osteoarthritis. Your doctor and/or physical therapist can recommend specific types of exercise depending on your particular situation. Attention to rest and periods of relief from stress on the joints is also important.
On the Move
Fighting Osteoarthritis With Exercise
You can use exercises to keep strong and limber, improve cardiovascular fitness, extend your joints’ range of motion, and reduce your weight. The following types of exercise are part of a well-rounded arthritis treatment plan.
Strengthening Exercises: strengthen muscles that support joints affected by arthritis. These exercises, for instance, can be performed with weights or with exercise bands. These are inexpensive and can add resistance, increasing the effectiveness of the exercise.
Aerobic Activities: get your heart pumping and can keep your lungs and circulatory system in shape. Examples are brisk walking or low-impact aerobics.
Range-of-motion activities: keep your muscles flexible and your joints limber.
Balance and agility exercises: help you maintain daily living skills.
Ask your doctor or physical therapist for guidance about what exercises are best for you. Knowing how much and how long you should be exercising is key, but above all, ask about the exercises you should avoid.
The safest and most effective physical activities for adults with OsteoArthritis (OA) of the hip and/or knee are low impact, moderate intensity aerobics – such as:
» water exercise
» muscle strengthening exercises that use different forms of resistance
Investments of as little as 60 minutes per week can yield some improvements for people with OA, but a minimum of 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderate intensity aerobic and two days of muscle strengthening exercise per week is recommended. This will improve OA pain and joint function and support prevention and management of other chronic conditions.¹
The Health Benefits of Physical Activity
Major Research Findings
» Regular physical activity reduces the risk of many adverse health outcomes.
» Some physical activity is better than none.
» For most health outcomes, added benefits occur as the amount of physical activity increases through higher intensity, greater frequency, and/or longer duration.
» Most health benefits occur with at least 150 minutes moderate-intensity physical activity each week, such as brisk walking. Additional benefits occur with more physical activity.
» Both aerobic (endurance) and muscle-strengthening (resistance) physical activity are beneficial.
» Health benefits occur for children and adolescents, young and middle-aged adults, older adults, and those in every studied racial and ethnic group.
» The health benefits of physical activity occur for people with disabilities.
» The benefits of physical activity far outweigh the chance of adverse outcomes.
Understanding Arthritis Friendly Activities
Follow either the Active Adult or Active Older Adult Guidelines from the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. See which one meets your personal health goals and matches your abilities. Remember, start slowly and pay attention to how your body tolerates activity. And most importantly, find out what works best for you.
Types of Exercise:
These types of exercise offer lots of options for staying fit:
Endurance / Aerobic
Endurance / Aerobic Activities
Aerobic activity is also called “cardio,” endurance, or conditioning exercise. It is any activity that makes your heart beat faster and makes you breathe a little harder than when you are sitting, standing or lying. Try activities that are moderate or vigorous intensity and that do not twist or “pound” your joints too much.
Some people with arthritis can do vigorous activities such as running and can even tolerate some activities that are harder on the joints like basketball or tennis. You should choose the activities that are right for you. You don’t have to do exercises you don’t enjoy. Choose activities that are not harmful for your type of arthritis and that’s right for you. There are a variety of activities that you can do to meet the Guidelines.