By Dr. Debbie Lim, Rheumatologist
Most people realize that physical activity is good for you. The benefits of exercise are limitless, and endless studies have proven that people who exercise feel better about themselves, are healthier and happier, and live longer than those who are more sedentary.
This includes people with arthritis. Yet, some people with arthritis claim arthritis is the reason for limiting their physical activity. What they may not realize is inactivity only enhances the pain and discomfort of arthritis. It may also agitate arthritis symptoms like weak muscles, stiff joints and poor balance. And it can result in a variety of other health issues, including Type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis, too. All of this means one thing: It is vital for those who have arthritis to exercise.
- Strengthen the muscles around your joints
- Help you maintain bone strength
- Give you more energy to get through the day
- Make it easier to get a good night’s sleep
- Enhance your quality of life
- Improve your balance
Remember, any movement, no matter how small, can help: Vacuuming, walking the dog, washing the car, mowing the lawn, etc. Daily activities count.
Don’t Overdo It
Anyone, but particularly those with arthritis, should ease their way into exercising. If you push yourself too hard, you can overwork, and even injure, your muscles and worsen your joint pain. Listen to your body. Follow its signals for the best and safest results.
- Keep the impact low.Low impact exercises like a stationary bike, elliptical trainer or exercising in water are good for keeping the stress on joints low.
- Apply heat before.Heat can relax your joints and muscles and relieve pain you have before you start exercising. Heating pads, warm towels, or hot packs should be warm, not hot, and should be applied for about 20 minutes.
- Move gently.Move your joints gently at first to warm up. Range-
- of-motion exercises before strengthening or aerobic exercises are beneficial.
- Go slowly.Exercise with slow and easy motion. If you feel pain, take a break. Sharp pain or pain that is stronger than usual might mean something is wrong. Slow down if you notice swelling or redness in your joints.
- Ice afterward.Apply ice to your joints for up to 20 minutes after activity, especially if your joints have swollen.
- Have several exercise options. This keeps exercising fresh and interesting.
- Trust your instincts. Don’t exert more energy than you think your joints can handle.
Dr. Lim is a rheumatologist and sees patients at the OSMS Green Bay clinic.