If you’re suffering with the pain of osteoarthritis, the last thing you may want to hear is that you should exercise. But the days of resting for relief from arthritis are long gone. We now know that moving can help your joints.
By moving your hips and knees and strengthening the muscles around them, you can protect your joints. The question is how much you should exercise and what exercises you can do.
Generally, it’s best to avoid high-impact, weight-bearing exercises in favor of activities that are easy on the joints. That means forgoing running and jogging because they put much more force on your joints. Walking is better. Also not a good idea: jumping rope, high-impact aerobics, and any activity where you have both feet off the ground at once.
Here are the areas you need to concentrate on and some suggestions for joint-friendly exercises:
Get your heart rate up by walking, swimming, or cycling on a recumbent bicycle. The swimming pool is your friend, but make sure it’s heated as cold water is painful for arthritic joints.
Specific exercises, such as leg swings and extensions done without weights, can improve your flexibility and range of motion around your knees and hips. These exercises help joints to lubricate themselves. Better yet, try stretching in a pool.
You can take some of the load off your joints and relieve pain by strengthening the muscles around the joints, which could also improve your balance and help reduce the incidence of falls.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, osteoarthritis affects nearly 14% of adults age 25 and older, and about a third of adults age 65 and older—in all, an estimated 26.9 million people.
Symptoms of Osteoarthritis
Pain, swelling, and joint stiffness are the most common symptoms of this loss of cartilage which causes changes to the underlying bone. CDC statistics indicate osteoarthritis is a leading cause of disability among adults with the condition.
Exercise plays an important role in limiting disability because joints that aren’t exercised tend to have disability associated with them. It can become a vicious circle: You don’t move as well because it hurts, so you don’t exercise, which limits your movement even more.
Remember, before beginning any exercise program, see your doctor. And should you experience any joint pain or swelling upon exercising, treat it with ice and rest.