I have suffered from arthritis in my hands for over 20 years and gone through a number of methods of dealing with the pain. I wrote about all of them earlier this week.. You can read How do I get relief from arthritis in my hands for the details.
So, I naturally was excited to see that the Harvard HEALTHbeat had just published a piece on exercise helping arthritis. First of all because arthritis pain can be brutal and secondly because eat less; move more; live longer is the mantra of this blog.
“Even the healthiest people can find it hard to stick with an exercise regimen — and if you suffer from the joint pain of arthritis, moving your body may be the last thing you want to think about. But regular exercise not only helps maintain joint function, but also relieves stiffness and reduces pain and fatigue.
If you have arthritis, you want to be sure your exercise routine has these goals in mind:
1. A better range of motion (improved joint mobility and flexibility). To increase your range of motion, move a joint as far as it can go and then try to push a little farther. These exercises can be done any time, even when your joints are painful or swollen, as long as you do them gently.
2. Stronger muscles (through resistance training). Fancy equipment isn’t needed. You can use your own body weight as resistance to build muscles. For example, the simple exercise described below can help ease the strain on your knees by strengthening your thigh muscles. Sit in a chair. Now lean forward and stand by pushing up with your thigh muscles (use your arms for balance only). Stand a moment, then sit back down, using your thigh muscles.
3. Better endurance. Aerobic exercise — such as walking, swimming, and bicycling — strengthens your heart and lungs and thereby increases endurance and overall health. Stick to activities that don’t jar your joints, and avoid high impact activities such as jogging. If you’re having a flare-up of symptoms, wait until it subsides before doing endurance exercise.
4. Better balance. There are simple ways to work on balance. For example, stand with your weight on both feet. Then try lifting one foot while you balance on the other foot for 5 seconds. Repeat on the other side. Over time, work your way up to 30 seconds. Yoga and tai chi are also good for balance.”
The HEALTHbeat item concludes, “Arthritis doesn’t have to keep you from enjoying life. To learn the latest on new treatments and practical strategies for living well with arthritis, buy Living Well with Osteoarthritis, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.”
I have been writing about arthritis for several years here on the blog. For a more complete rundown, check out my page – What you should know about arthritis.