Exercise for arthritis

Exercise is ideal at reducing the symptoms of arthritis as well as ensuring that the joints remain flexible and mobile. The issue of mobility is a vital one as this will help to strengthen the muscles surrounding the joints which keep them in place.

The old saying ‘use it or lose it’ is particularly relevant to arthritis sufferers.

Plus exercise confers a range of benefits which include weight management, healthy heart and lungs, increased energy levels and improved mental wellbeing.

Regular exercise can reduce the risk of developing arthritis but if you already have been diagnosed with this condition then do not assume that exercise is not for you. Even a small amount of physical activity will make a noticeable difference.

The value of exercise for arthritis sufferers is discussed as follows:

  • Will exercise damage my arthritic joints?
  • Benefits of exercise for arthritis sufferers
  • Starting an exercise routine
  • Frequency of exercise

Will exercise damage my arthritic joints?

But many arthritis sufferers are put off from taking exercise as they assume that doing so will further damage their joints. They fear that putting too much strain on weakened joints will only worsen their arthritis so avoid taking any exercise altogether.

This is understandable but has proved not to be the case. In fact, your GP and other healthcare professionals will encourage you to undertake some form of exercise to help you remain as fit and active as possible.

Benefits of exercise for arthritis sufferers

So what are the benefits of exercise to an arthritis sufferer?

If this applies to you then have a look at these benefits:

  • Increases muscle strength
  • Eases joint stiffness
  • Releases hormones called endorphins which act as a natural painkiller and boost your mood.
  • Strengthens the bones
  • Improves muscle tone
  • Improves the mobility of the joints
  • Burns calories and helps you to maintain a healthy weight
  • Regulates blood sugar levels
  • Improves blood circulation
  • Improves cardiovascular health (heart and lung function)
  • Increases flexibility
  • Helps you to maintain bone density which is especially important for women.

Plus there is the fact that exercise makes you feel better –both physically and mentally. It also prevents muscle loss which is common feature of the ageing process. We lose a percentage of muscle mass and strength as we age which is replaced with body fat so it is important to remain active and watch your diet.

Basically, eat a little less and move a little more.

Starting an exercise routine

If you are looking to start any form of exercise then it is a good idea to discuss this with your GP first. This is particularly important if you have not exercised for some time and/or are aged 40 and above.

He or she will assess your condition and advise you about suitable forms of exercise. He/she can also refer you to a physiotherapist if necessary.

The important issue is finding something that you are able to do and enjoy. Many people start a sport or exercise with plenty of enthusiasm only to find that this has declined after a short period of time.

There are many reasons for this, one of these being a lack of motivation. Motivation is why you persist with exercise even if it is hard work or exhausting so you need to find an activity which will keep your motivation levels up.

Your choices are joining a gym, jogging, cycling, swimming, walking or even dance classes. But remember to check first with your GP before undertaking any of these.

Frequency of exercise

Experts recommend that we all exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes a day at least 5 times a week. If this sounds a lot then break these 30 minutes up into three, 10 minutes sessions.

You may find this easier to do as well as fitting in better with your lifestyle.

Try not to overdo exercise. If you are stiff and sore then this to be expected but if this is worse than before you started then it is sign of having overdone things.

If your affected joint is hot, sore and inflamed then this often means you have overdone your exercise routine. Apply an ice pack to the affected joint.

Many people find that exercising little and often give the best results.

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