Knee pain, hip pain, really any joint pain can significantly impact your motivation to exercise. You may even think that exercise could make your arthritis worse.
But staying active with arthritis is possible. The truth is, exercise is a very important part of managing the joint pain, swelling and stiffness that goes along with arthritis. By keeping the joints flexible and the muscles around the joints strong, exercise can reduce the amount of stress put on the joints, and therefore, help reduce joint pain.
However, working out with arthritis typically requires switching to lower-impact, “joint-friendly” activities.
Let’s talk about the 4 exercises to keep you active with arthritis.
Walking is free, easy and provides so many health benefits. Here are a few reasons you should start walking:
- It keeps your joints healthy by improving the circulation of oxygen and nutrients in joint cartilage.
- It keeps leg muscles strong, which can take some of the stress off of arthritic knees or hips.
- It strengthens bones and can help prevent bone loss that may lead to osteoporosis.
- It helps with weight loss.
- It works the cardiovascular system and helps strengthen the heart.
Water helps support your body’s weight while exercising, which reduces the amount of stress put on weight-bearing joints like the hips and knees. According to the Arthritis Foundation, doing water aerobics (as opposed to a class on a hard floor) reduces the impact on joints by 75 percent.
Water allows for greater freedom of movement. Since the water is helping to support your body, water exercise isn’t limited by your ability to balance. You can move through full range of motion without fear of falling.
Water also provides more resistance than air, so water exercise is a great way to strengthen muscles and improve cardiovascular stamina.
Types of water exercise include:
- Water walking (taking your walk from the park to the pool)
- Water aerobics
An important component to any exercise routine is cardiovascular activity. These help keep your heart strong and play a key role in weight loss. Some types of cardio exercise, like running or fast-paced fitness classes, are probably too high-intensity if you suffer from arthritis joint pain. That’s why cycling is a great option. Cycling works your lower body muscles as well as your cardiovascular system, but it doesn’t put significant stress on weight-bearing joints.
Cycling can be done outside or on an indoor stationary bike, which can be helpful if you have difficulties with balance.
Yoga is an activity that strengthens muscles and improves flexibility. And with the use of chairs, blocks and other props, it can be gentle enough on the joints to do daily.
However, to ensure that no unnecessary stress is put on your joints, it is important to find an appropriate style of yoga, learn how to do yoga poses properly, and understand when modifications may be needed.
Dr. Dan Linehan is an Orthopedic Surgeon with OSMS and sees patients in Green Bay and Sturgeon Bay.