Exercising with Arthritis
If you have been living with arthritis for a while then you probably know that exercise is a key part of fighting the pain, stiffness, and swelling that accompany this chronic condition. And yet, hauling yourself to the gym, hitting the track for a jog, or joining your local sports league can be difficult when you are already suffering from the discomfort and fatigue of arthritis.
You might not want to move, let alone stress your already painful joints. And yet, without your daily workout to increase strength and flexibility, your condition only stands to worsen. This could lead to even less activity, accompanied by increasing stiffness, soreness, and weight gain, all of which could further derail your progress in the fight against arthritic symptoms.
Without exercise you could eventually become incapacitated by the ongoing degeneration of arthritis. Luckily, there are ways to manage your pain in the here and now so that you can continue to follow your workout regimen and hopefully improve your overall condition, ultimately reducing pain and other symptoms.
Here are a few tips you can try.
Because arthritis primarily affects your joints, the level of impact in your exercise routine can definitely make a difference in how much pain you experience. So while there’s nothing wrong with trying new exercises and doing any that you can handle, it’s might be a good idea to start out with low-impact options like swimming or the elliptical machine to start and work your way up to jogging or kick-boxing. And if your pain starts to ratchet up, simply go back to lower-impact to continue building strength before you try again.
Use appropriate intensity.
Depending on how you feel any given day, you might want to opt for moderate, rather than intense activity. You don’t have to push yourself so hard that you can’t say five words without panting, especially if you’re in pain. In order to maintain a healthy weight and an acceptable level of fitness, most doctors recommend moderate exercise for 30 minute sessions 3-5 times per week (along with a balanced and nutritious diet, of course). So don’t feel like you have to muscle through the pain and drip sweat to get a good workout – in fact, you may only end up hurting yourself more with such a strategy.
Stretch before and after.
Warming up, stretching, and cooling down are essential for anyone who wants to reduce the risk of injury during and after exercise. But these tasks are even more important when you have arthritis since they can also help to reduce the pain you feel throughout your fitness routine and even the next day.
Mix it up.
If you notice that certain joints are hurting, give them a break. You don’t have to work your whole body in every exercise session, nor do you have to continue stressing an area that is particularly tender. Instead, focus on a different area for a couple of days and come back to your regular routine when you’re feeling better.
Know your limits.
Many people who participate in physical activity find that they want to push their limits and see what they’re capable of. They want their willpower to take them beyond what they think they can do. But this is a good way to wind up in the pain clinic. So be aware of the signals your body is sending, and don’t push so hard that you injure yourself or end up in such intense pain that you have to take an extended sabbatical from working out altogether.