If you or a loved one is living with arthritis, you’ve likely heard that incorporating moderate exercise into your routine can reduce pain and increase mobility over time. While exercising is important and healthy for nearly everyone, it’s important to understand the types of exercises that are most helpful for certain conditions and, conversely, which ones could potentially cause irritation or injury.
Before discussing activities that could ease arthritis pain, it’s important to first understand the different types of arthritis.
Osteoarthritis vs. Rheumatoid Arthritis
There are two main types of arthritis: Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid arthritis, as outlined by Arthritis.org.
- Osteoarthritis is a result of wear and tear on the joints, usually brought on with age and linked with a genetic predisposal to cartilage deterioration.
- Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder where antibodies attack healthy joint tissue.
The main differences between these two types of arthritis are location and duration. Osteoarthritis symptoms typically affect one side of the body more than the other. Another difference is that morning stiffness lasts less than 30 minutes. Rheumatoid arthritis, on the other hand, usually affects the whole body and stiffness lasts for more than 30 minutes in the morning.
Of course it’s always best to consult a doctor to determine exactly what type of arthritis might be affecting you. A licensed physician can also help you make a fitness plan that will best address your specific needs. But if you’re searching for some general advice to get the conversation started, read on!
Best Exercises for Arthritis
As you start thinking about which exercises to incorporate into your routine, there are a few factors to keep in mind:
- Low impact– Reduce strain on your joints. Swimming is a perfect example of a low-impact activity that will keep you moving with ease. Swimming laps is great for increasing your heart rate, but may not be sufficient for building strength.
- Build strength– By strengthening the muscles around your joints, the better your posture will be and less tension will be left on your joints. Lifting weights is a perfect strength-building exercise that can make muscles more effective for protecting your joints.
- Increase flexibility– Not only does increased flexibility aid in your mobility, but it can also reduce the risk of injury. Yoga and Pilates are ideal for improving your flexibility, and often your balance as well.
A good workout routine typically incorporates a range of different activities to focus on different areas of your health. For example, you could take a swim and follow up that cardio activity with some yoga. If going to the gym seems overwhelming, even just taking a simple walk can go a long way towards improving your health and mobility. No matter what exercise you choose, it’s important to take the time to warm up and cool down to help your muscles prepare for the transition from rest to workout. This is true for anyone who exercises, but especially for people with arthritis.
Paying attention to your body is equally important to warming up. Take care not to overexert yourself and begin by moving slowly and gently. Get to know your body and learn the difference between healthy movement and painful movements that can lead to injury. While getting started will likely trigger some arthritis pain, you should notice your movements become easier over time as you build strength and flexibility.
Another advantage of going easy on yourself is that you’ll be more likely to stick to your routine if you’re doing something you enjoy.
Arthritis Exercises to Avoid
In order to avoid overexerting yourself, it’s best to avoid competitive sports that require a lot of running or contact. Running in general can be tough on your knees and joints. And when arthritis is a factor, high-impact activities can cause a lot of pain and discomfort, which may discourage you from sticking to your fitness routine.
It’s important to listen to listen to what your body needs and take its cues seriously. For example, try to notice any unusual swelling, redness, or pain that may develop in your joints as a result of a new exercise.
If you ever have any doubts about whether or not a particular activity is harming or hurting you, the best thing to do is always to consult your physician. They can help you determine if your discomfort is a result of a new physical activity or if it’s a symptom of something else.
Don’t let arthritis get in the way of your comfort or mobility. By establishing a healthy workout routine, you can build strength, flexibility, and improve your overall health. If you’re looking for ways to improve your mobility, talk to a pharmacist about products (such as knee braces) that can help ease you into fitness.