Article by Christine Zellers, MPP – Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Cape May County – Family and Community Health Sciences Assistant Professor published September 27, 2023.
Physical activity is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, it helps us to maintain a healthy weight, prevents chronic disease and improves mental health. It also helps people who have been diagnosed with osteoarthritis or other rhematic conditions that affect the joints. Everyone should participate in 150 – 300 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity each week and include two additional days of muscle strengthening activity. This is also true for people with arthritis because regular moderate intensity exercise has been shown to lessen pain and improve quality of life.
Joint-friendly exercises are recommended for arthritis patients. Examples of cardiovascular exercise for people with arthritis include cycling, brisk walking, water exercise, swimming, group fitness classes, light gardening, and dancing. Muscle strengthening activities like lifting weights, resistance bands, or yoga increase overall strength and stamina. Flexibility is important for people who have arthritis and stretching regularly will increase flexibility and improve your ability to do everyday tasks. To prevent falls, include balance exercise like tai chi, practice standing on one leg or participate in a group fitness class. Change your activity level to fit the level of your symptoms and realize that participating in joint friendly activities is not going to worsen your symptoms and may help you live a better more active lifestyle. Start slowly and increase the amount of exercise that your body is comfortable with. Be aware of what your body can tolerate but don’t make excuses to skip physical activity since it can reduce symptoms and improve quality of life.
To start or continue exercising with arthritis find movement that you enjoy. For instance, walking is a great exercise that can increase or decrease in intensity depending on symptoms. It is important to walk on even ground to prevent falls and in a well-lit area that is safe. Regular walking has benefits and can be done almost anywhere. Group fitness classes are another way to add in movement and ease symptoms. Yoga, aerobics, or Tai Chi are all good options for group fitness classes that allow movement, stretching and balance practice. If you haven’t been exercising regularly or find it too be challenging try starting out by doing just ten minutes at one time, three times per day. Be sure to warm up with light movement before exercising and wear clothing that is appropriate, including safe shoes.
Exercise is sometimes portrayed as the cause of arthritis however evidence is being discovered to the contrary. In fact, regular physical activity can prevent obesity which is a leading cause of arthritis and it strengthen muscles which has been shown to reduce the likelihood of arthritis. Studies are still examining the effects of exercise in preventing arthritis, but some have shown an anti-inflammatory effect from exercise on arthritic joints and trials have discovered that physical activity has a protective effect on joint cartilage. It is important to realize that exercise is safe for arthritis patients and for disease prevention, however, make sure to exercise safely within your limits and consult a doctor before beginning a new exercise routine.
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