When you're experiencing arthritis pain, physical activity may be the last thing on your mind. You may feel tempted to curl up on the couch with a good book or movie. In fact, arthritis is one of the most common reasons why people limit their physical activity, according to the American College of Rheumatology. Physical inactivity can cause a range of health risks for arthritis patients, including Type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and osteoporosis. That's why it's important to make sure you're getting enough exercise during times when your pain has ebbed.
People who find a good plan for how to exercise for arthritis issues experience less pain, more energy, better sleep, and improved day-to-day function. Other benefits include less of the bone loss and small-joint damage associated with rheumatoid arthritis, as well as reduced symptoms, improved joint motion and function, enhanced coordination and balance, and better control over body weight. Arthritis patients who are physically active also often have an improved quality of life and elevated mood.
Types of Arthritis-Friendly Exercises
You and your doctor can discuss the best options for an exercise regime that's right for your situation. The National Institutes of Health recommends three types of exercise for arthritis patients that achieve the best results:
- Range of motion exercises can relieve stiffness, improve flexibility, and help you keep moving your joints. Dancing is a great example.
- Strengthening exercises can retain or add muscle strength to better support and protect your joints. Examples include weight training, calisthenics, and working with resistance bands.
- Aerobic or endurance exercises can improve heart and artery health, prevent weight gain, and lessen swelling in some joints. Examples includes brisk walking, cycling, swimming, water aerobics, and even gardening.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also recommends balance exercises for adults living with arthritis, such as walking backwards, standing on one foot, and tai chi.
The main goal is finding low-impact workouts that still work the heart and muscles. Swimming and cycling are lower-impact exercises than running, for example, because they do not involve firm, abrupt, and frequent contact with the ground or treadmill.
How Much You Should Exercise?
The CDC lines out a complete exercise plan for arthritis patients. You and your doctor should discuss the following plans:
- Two hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week.
- One hour and 15 minutes (75 minutes) of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week.
- An equivalent combination of moderate and vigorous activity (where one minute of vigorous-intensity activity equals two minutes of moderate-intensity activity).
The aerobic activity should be combined with:
- Muscle strengthening exercises on two or more days per week.
- Balance exercises on three days per week if you are at risk of falling.
Start off slowly with just a few low-intensity exercises at first, gradually building up to a more rigorous exercise plan. Any physical activity is better than none. Activity can be broken up into small amounts (at least 10 minutes at a time) during the day and still be effective.
Empower yourself to take control of your physical activity despite your arthritis. The more you can stay active, the greater the health benefits will be. You and your doctor can determine exercises that are appropriate for your arthritis and do not interfere with other health complications that you may have.