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Can You Exercise With Arthritis? 

 March 28, 2024

By  Linda Rook

Exercises

Introduction.

Arthritis has 100 different types and affects millions of people worldwide.  Which ever the type of arthritis you are dealing with the symptoms of pain, stiffness and limitation of mobility can be challenging to manage.

This blog will show you why you should do exercises and how to do them carefully with your already painful joints. I shall explore into the benefits of exercising, including pain relief, how to improve joint function and much more…

I shall also show you some types of low-impact exercises that range from stretching to aerobics to your different need and preferences.  But you should always see your doctor before doing anything new if you are suffering from this terrible disease.

But first how to understand arthritis.

Understanding Arthritis.

As each different type of arthritis has different causes and symptoms, they all share a common feature like your joints having pain, stiffness, swelling, inflammation and a decrease in movement.

Types of arthritis.

This first list are five common types of arthritis they include:

  • Osteoarthritis: this first one is the most common type, it is the breakdown of cartilage in your joints from wear and tear, or in my case an injury. I fell onto my right knee, I now suffer from OA in my hip, knees, and shoulders with a right hip replacement. 
  • The joints affected are commonly the weight-bearing joints such as your hips, and knees. OA develops gradually over time.
  • The second one is rheumatoid arthritis RA: this is an autoimmune disease where your body’s immune system is mistakenly attacks the synovium. The synovium is the lining of the membranes that surround the joints.  The symptoms are inflammation, pain, swelling and can end with deformity in the joints.
  •  Psoriatic arthritis is the next common one, this attacks your skin like psoriasis, it affects the skin as well as the joints, the symptoms can be pain, stiffness and swelling of the joints also you will have skin patches that look like psoriasis.
  • Ankylosing spondylitis: this type of arthritis affects the spine causing pain and stiffness that normally starts at the lower back and progress up the spine. But it can also affect the joints and organs.
  • And five is gout: yes, gout is a type of arthritis, that affects mainly the big toe but can attack your fingers. The symptoms could be pain, redness and tenderness of the joints, it happens because you have too much uric acid crystals in the joint and the surrounding tissue.

Causes and Risk Factors.

The causes of the arthritis can vary, it depends on the type you have, but it may include:

•     Genetics: Some types can be genetics, meaning that it can run in your family.

•     Age: A risk factor of developing arthritis could be your age, particularly for osteoarthritis, where it is wear and tear of the joints.

•     Joint injuries: A previous injuries or trauma to the joints can increase the risk.

genetics
shoulder pain

•     Obesity: If you are obese or overweight you are putting more pressure and stress on your already unhealthy weight-bearing joints like your hips or knees.

•     Autoimmune factors: In autoimmune arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis, your immune system is mistakenly attacks the body's own tissues.

Symptoms: 

Some common symptoms of arthritis include:

•     Joint pain, swelling, redness and warmth.

•     Stiffness, especially in the morning or after periods of inactivity.

•     Decreased range of motion.

Benefits of Exercises When You Have Arthritis.

I now know exercise is further from your mind but doing exercises can help with your joints, to keep them flexible for longer.  Despite worries about aggravating joint pain, a regular physical activity personalized to your needs and capabilities, doing exercises can help alleviate symptoms, increasing joint function.

The following are some benefits to exercising with arthritis, they include:

  • Pain Relief: Regular exercise has been shown to reduce joint pain. By strengthening the muscles which are around your joints, doing exercise helps to reduce stress on the joint itself. Also doing exercises it can release endorphins, which are natural pain-relieving chemicals produced by the body, which can help alleviate discomfort.
  • Improved Joint Function and Flexibility: When you do exercises that helps the mobility and flexibility of your joints, it can reduce the stiffness in the affected joints. Gentle stretching and yoga, can help maintain or improve flexibility, which can make it easier to do your daily activities with less discomfort. 
  • Pain in Fingers
    Elderly Gent with walking stick
  • Strengthening Muscles to Support Joints: When you develop arthritis you could have weak muscles that can worsen the stability of the joint affected. By doing some strength training exercises, if done correctly and under proper guidance, such as a physio, or a gym trainer, you can help build muscle strength, therefore providing better support for the joints.
  • Low-impact exercises: low-impact exercises, such as walking, swimming, or cycling, can be beneficial for painful, joints. These low-impact exercises can also help improve your cardiovascular health, maintain a healthy weight, and increase overall stamina. If you do aerobic exercise, it can also help your circulation, by delivering oxygen and nutrients to the joints, which can help in healing and reduce inflammation.
  • Weight Management: Having a healthy weight is crucial for managing arthritis, particularly if you have arthritis in your weight-bearing joints, such as myself with osteoarthritis of the knees and hips. Having exercise, with a balanced diet, you can have a healthy weight, therefore reducing the load on your joints and reduce your pain and stiffness.
  • And lastly Prevention of Secondary Complications: Doing regular exercise it can help to prevent or ease secondary complications of arthritis, such as cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and muscle atrophy.
  • Bathroom scales

    Getting Started With Exercises.

    Starting an exercise program can be scary, especially if your joint pain and stiffness are chronic. However, if you plan your program with your physio and get guidance, and patience, putting the exercise into your routine, it can become manageable and even enjoyable.

    The following are some help tips to get started:

  • Consultation with Healthcare Professionals: Before beginning any exercise program, it is important to consult with your healthcare team, including your physician, rheumatologist, or physical therapist. They will assess your current health situation, and provide you with a tailored program to your specific condition and needs, making sure that any exercise plan is safe and appropriate for you.
  • Set Realistic Goals: set yourself a realistic and achievable goals, this will motivate you. Start by writing down some ideas what you hope to achieve through exercise, such as reducing pain, improving flexibility, or increasing stamina. Break down larger goals into smaller, more manageable milestones, and celebrate with your achievements as you go.
  • Exercises
  • Safety Tips for Exercising:
  • •     Listen to your body: it is important to pay attention to your body responds to exercise, and if you need to, adjust intensity or duration accordingly.

    •     Start slowly: Begin with low-impact exercises and slowly increase the strength and duration as your strength improve.

    •     Use proper technique: If you are unsure about proper technique, you should work with a certified fitness trainer or physical therapist.

    •     Warm-up and cool down: Always start your exercise session with a gentle warm-up, this is to prepare your muscles and joints for activity, and when you have finished you need to cool-down to gradually return your heart rate to baseline and reduce muscle soreness.

    •     Use supportive equipment: You should buy proper support footwear and suitable gear, to help stabilize and protect your joints during exercise.

    • Choose Low-impact Exercises: It is important to have exercises that are gentle on the joints.  The low-impact activities minimize stress on the joints and helping cardiovascular and strengthening benefits.

    Examples of some low impact exercises could include:

    •     Swimming or water aerobics.

    •     Walking or hiking on flat surfaces.

    •     Cycling on a stationary or recumbent bike.

    •     Tai chi or yoga for flexibility and balance.

    •     Strength training using light weights or resistance bands.

    Types of Arthritis Friendly Exercises.

    The low-impact exercises are also called arthritis friendly exercises. It is essential to incorporate a variety of these exercises into your routine, for managing the symptoms, reducing, and improving your joint function, and helping your overall well-being. These activities, are gentle on your joints, and they help with cardiovascular, strength, flexibility and if you have arthritis it has benefits of maintaining an active lifestyle with minimal discomfort.

    Range-of-Motion Exercises: maintains or improve joint flexibility and mobility. Reduce stiffness and increase the ability to perform daily activities with greater ease.

    Lady doing neck exercises

    Examples of range-of-motion exercises include:

    •     Neck rotations.

    •     Shoulder rolls.

    •     Wrist circles.

    •     Ankle pumps.

    •     Knee lifts.

    2.    Strengthening Exercises: these targets the muscles surrounding the joints, providing greater support and stability. It's essential to start with light resistance and gradually increase intensity as tolerated. Some effective strengthening exercises for arthritis include:

    •     Leg lifts.

    •     Arm curls with light dumbbells.

    •     Wall squats.

    •     Seated or standing calf raises.

    •     Resistance band exercises.

    Physio with a resistant band.
    Swimming

    3.    Aerobic Exercises: also known as cardio exercises, helping with cardiovascular health, improve endurance, and help manage weight, all of which are beneficial for arthritis. Examples of arthritis-friendly aerobic exercises include:

    •     Walking.

    •     Swimming or water aerobics.

    •     Cycling on a stationary bike in the gym or a normal cycle.

    •     Dancing.

    4. Balance Exercises: Managing a good balance is essential for preventing falls and reducing the risk of injury. Balance exercises can include:

    •     Standing on one leg

    •     Heel-to-toe walking

    •     Tai chi or qigong movements

    •     Balance board exercises

    •     Yoga poses that focus on balance

    Physio, Balancing Ball
    Lady doing arm stretches.

    5.    Flexibility Exercises: these are stretching exercises, that lengthen muscles and tendons, helping with better joint range of motion and reducing stiffness. Flexibility exercises such as:

    •     Gentle yoga poses

    •     Pilates movements

    •     Static stretches targeting major muscle groups

    •     Shoulder and arm stretch

    •     Calf and hamstring stretch

    Lifestyle Tips for Managing Arthritis.

    In addition to your exercise routine, managing arthritis efficiently can involve accepting a holistic approach to lifestyle choices. Making decisions about your nutrition, weight management, stress reduction, and using assistive devices, can significantly impact your quality of life.

    The following are some lifestyle tips to help you better manage arthritis:

    1. Proper Nutrition for Joint Health: You should have a balanced diet which is rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains.  All of which can help support your joint health. Certain nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish and flaxseeds, whilst antioxidants are found in colourful fruits and vegetables, and have anti-inflammatory properties that could help to reduce your arthritis symptoms.

    Consider incorporating the following foods into your diet:

    •     Fatty fish: salmon, mackerel, and sardines.

    •     Berries: blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries.

    •     Dark leafy greens: spinach, kale, and Swiss chard.

    •     Nuts and seeds: walnuts, almonds, and chia seeds.

    •     Olive oil: this contains a heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.

    Fruit and Veggies

    2.    Weight Management: It is vital to keep a healthy weight, especially for managing arthritis, and particularly if you have arthritis in your weight-bearing joint.  Excess weight can put stress and strain on the joints, making the symptoms worse.

    3.    Stress Management Techniques: When you live with chronic pain and a limited movement 24/7 it can be stressful, which can intensify arthritis symptoms, therefore it has a negate impact on your overall well-being. 

    low-impact exercises like yoga.

    There are exercises that can help to ease tension and help relaxation. The following can relax you they include:

    •     Mindfulness meditation.

    •     Deep breathing exercises.

    •     Progressive muscle relaxation.

    •     Yoga or tai chi.

    •     Engaging in hobbies or activities you enjoy.

    4.    When you are in chronic pain and have difficulty doing daily activities, there are assistive devices and aids that can help you make your daily tasks easier and reduce strain on your joints. Depending on your specific needs, you should consider using:

    •     Canes or walking sticks to provide support and stability while walking.

    •     Braces or splints to stabilize and protect joints during activity.

    •     Ergonomic tools and utensils with larger handles to reduce strain on your hands and wrists.

    •     Shoe inserts or orthotics to provide cushioning and support for your feet and ankles.

    •     Reacher’s or grabbers to help with reaching objects without bending or stretching.

    stair chair a device for the home stairs.

    Frequently Asked Questions.

    This next section is addressing some frequently asked questions about exercises and arthritis.

    They include:

    1.    Q. Can Exercise Worsen Arthritis?

    A. Contrary to popular belief, exercise is generally safe and beneficial for most people with arthritis. Engaging in regular physical activity you can help improve joint function, reduce pain, and enhance overall well-being. However, it is essential to choose appropriate exercises that are gentle on the joints and to start slowly, gradually increasing intensity and duration as tolerated.

    2.    Q. How Often Should I Exercise?

    A. The frequency of exercise depends on individual preferences, goals, and physical capabilities. You should aim your goal to 2 ½ hours per week of low-impact aerobic exercise, doing the exercises every other day so that your body can rest in between. Additionally, incorporate strength training exercises at least two days per week to build muscle strength and support joint function. Always listen to your body and if needed adjust accordingly.

    3.    Q. Is It Safe to Exercise During a Flare-Up?

    A. During a flare-up of arthritis symptoms, it's essential to listen to your body and prioritize rest and self-care. In some cases, gentle movement and stretching may help alleviate stiffness and discomfort. However, if exercise exacerbates pain or inflammation, it is best to rest and allow your body time to recover. Consult with your healthcare provider for personalized recommendations during flare-ups.

    4.    Q. Can I Exercise if I Have Joint Damage?

    A. Exercise can still be beneficial for individuals with joint damage, as it can help improve muscle strength, joint stability, and overall function. However, it's important to choose low-impact activities and modify exercises as needed to minimize stress on the affected joints. Work closely with your healthcare provider or physical therapist to develop a safe and effective exercise program tailored to your specific needs.

    5.    Q. How Can I Stay Motivated to Exercise?

    A. Staying motivated to exercise can be challenging, especially when dealing with chronic pain and fatigue. Always have realistic goals, write down your progress, and celebrate your successes each time. You should do activities that you enjoy also keep it interesting by mixing up your routine. Enlist the support of friends, family members, or support groups to help you stay accountable and motivated.

    6.    Q. Are There Any Exercises I Should Avoid with Arthritis?

    A. While exercise is generally safe and beneficial for arthritis, it's important to avoid activities that exacerbate pain or strain the joints. High-impact exercises such as running or jumping may put excessive stress on the joints and should be avoided. Additionally, avoid exercises that involve repetitive motions or heavy lifting that could aggravate joint pain or inflammation.

    Conclusion.

    In conclusion, managing arthritis effectively requires a multifaceted approach that encompasses regular exercise, proper nutrition, stress management, and self-care. By incorporating arthritis-friendly exercises into your routine and making lifestyle modifications, you can minimize symptoms, improve joint function, and enhance overall well-being. Here's a recap of key points discussed throughout this blog:

    1.    Exercise is Essential.

    2.    Start Slow and Stay Consistent.

    3.    Listen to Your Body.

    4.    Support Your Overall Health.

    5.    Seek Professional Guidance.

    Remember that managing your arthritis is a slow journey, and progress which can take time. You need to be patient with yourself, stay motivated, and celebrate your successes along the way.

    By taking a proactive approach to your health and well-being and incorporating regular exercise and healthy lifestyle habits into your routine, you can live well with arthritis and enjoy a fuller, more active life.

    If you have any further questions or concerns about managing arthritis or incorporating exercise into your routine, do not hesitate to reach out to your healthcare provider for support and guidance.

    I hope this article has helped you. Please subscribe to my website, and I will keep you updated on new blogs.  Also, if you have any questions regarding arthritis, please let  me know by going to my contact page and leave a message, and I shall get back to you.

    In the meantime, if this post is informative, I would be very grateful if you would help your friends or family if they have a similar condition to tell them. So please share it on Twitter (X) or Facebook or send them an email.

    Also check out my eBook for more information on this article.

    I am not a medical professional, and this blog is for information only. If you have any worries, you should consult your doctor.

    I hope this blog has helped.

    https://foodwitharthitis.com

    Linda Rook

    Linda is now retired and has suffered from Osteoarthritis for about 40+ years.  She struggled with her weight until she found the correct one that also helped with her arthritic pain.  Linda was in terrible pain until the physician thought her right hip needed replacement. 


    Now Linda has an artificial right hip, which has left her with the left leg shorter than the right.  Therefore, her spine is now wonky, and has arthritis of the lower back, also it seems to be going all over the body, her pain is now in the knees, elbow, wrist, fingers and both hips.


    Linda now spends her days writing information to help others with the same conditions, so they do not suffer like Linda.


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