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8 Benefits from Exercise When You Have Arthritis
Medically reviewed by Rodney Alan, MD
For many folks, arthritis equals pain. And pain leads to limited activity. Years ago, doctors might even suggest that arthritis patients “be sure to rest their joints.” “More recently, we’ve come to understand that moderate exercise can offer many benefits, even for those with osteoarthritis in their knees, hips and back,” says McLeod Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Rodney Alan, MD. “Physical activity should be a priority to improve your symptoms and prevent or delay limitations if you combine aerobic, balance, range-of-motion and strengthening exercises.”
Benefits you’ll experience:
- Stronger muscles around your joints
- Less pain
- More energy
- Better sleep
- Increased social activity
- Enhanced mood, less anxiety, depression
- Weight loss
- Improvement in related medical issues, such as diabetes
Aerobic exercise helps your heart and lungs. Possible activities you can try include: gardening, dancing, water aerobics, swimming, brisk walking, cycling, or elliptical machines.
Balance and range-of-motion can be improved through Tai Chi or yoga classes.
Exercises designed to help strengthen your muscles include: Working with weights (free weights or weight machines), using rubber resistance bands or “heavy” gardening that involves digging or shoveling.
Avoid any activity that involves jarring or high impact on the arthritic joints.
Consult your physician before you start a program. Then,
- Start slowly
- Work in 10-minute increments with rest periods
- Experts suggest 2.5 hours (150 minutes) a week of aerobic exercise and
- Schedule strengthening exercises about twice a week
How can you tell it’s “moderate” exercise? You will breathe harder, but you should be able to talk easily (although not able to sing). Everyone has some pain, stiffness and swelling when they start an exercise program. As you exercise regularly, these symptoms should fade.
If the pain continues, adjust your activity level and see your physician.
For tips on starting your exercise program, here’s a video from the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgery.
To find a physician, click here.
Sources include: McLeod Health, American Academy of Orthopedic Surgery, Arthritis Foundation, Centers for Disease Control & Prevention