Exercise, according to Arthritis.org, “is considered the most effective non-drug treatment for reducing pain and improving movement in patients with osteoarthritis.” Multiple types of exercise can be helpful for arthritis, including:
- Range of motion or flexibility exercises
- Aerobic/endurance exercises
- Strengthening exercises
Before getting into more specifics, it’s also important to heed this statement: “everyone’s circumstances are different, so having a discussion about exercise with your doctor is important. Together with your doctor and/or physical therapist you can design an exercise plan that is best for you.”
Now, here are exercises for arthritis to consider.
Walking comes with numerous benefits, including being easy on the joints, improving circulation, lowering blood pressure, reducing risk of fractures, toning muscles — and, if performed aerobically, it also strengthens the heart. By walking in your neighborhood, or in parks, at the mall and so forth, this exercise also has the benefit of being free.
If you are newer to exercise and/or are overweight, water walking and other aquatic forms of exercise are often recommended. This is not the same as swimming; instead, you stand in the water to exercise, with the water relieving pressure on your joints. The water also provides muscle resistance, 12 times as much as air, which strengthens your muscles. Water-based workouts also boost cardiovascular fitness, along with range of motion and balance. If you exercise in heated pools, this can also soothe aches and pains.
It’s important to note the following: “You do not bear weight while swimming and walking, however, so you’ll still need to add some bone-building workouts to your routine.” According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, two different types of exercises help with building and maintaining bone density: weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening ones. Here are three exercises from Arthritis.org to help in that regard.
3 Weightlifting Exercises
These three simple exercises can help you to manage pain associated with arthritis, but it’s important to do them after you warm up (walking qualifies) and stretch. Note that two of them require the use of two 16-ounce cans of soup.
Exercise 1: Legs and Biceps
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, bending your knees slightly, and keeping both feet and knees pointing straight ahead. Hold a can of soup in each hand, with your palms facing forward. Squat by lowering your hips towards the floor, pause, then return to the starting position. Move slowly and stay in a “pain-free zone.” Then bend your elbows up, bringing the cans toward your shoulders and back. Repeat this entire sequence 10 to 15 times.
Exercise 2: Back and Triceps
Still holding the cans and with your feet still shoulder-width apart, bend at your waist, slightly, with your arms hanging down. Bend elbows, bringing them towards the ceiling. You’ll be squeezing your shoulder blades together. Hold that position, then straighten your arms, hands being extended behind you. Return to starting position, repeating 10 to 15 times.
Exercise 3: Chest and Calves
Face a wall, standing about two feet away. Lean forward, putting your hands on the wall at the level of your chest. Legs are straight. Bend your elbows and lower upper body towards the wall to do a push-up against the wall. Pause before straightening your arms; when straightening them, don’t lock your elbows. Next, stand on the balls of your feet, then lower your heels. Repeat this sequence 10 to 15 times.
Each of these exercises play a role in your ability to move and function, and can lead to a better quality of life. And, finally, it’s OK to have fun while exercising! In fact, we recommend that.