Exercise, it seems, is good for everything that ails us — including the pain and stiffness from osteoarthritis.
Exercising may seem like the last thing you want to do if you're hurting. But the research is clear that moving your joints is beneficial to improve range-of-motion, ease pain and stay strong.
Researchers at University of North Carolina studied the effects of an exercise program developed by the Arthritis Foundation. Participants exercised for an hour, twice a week.Compared to a control group, the exercise group had significantly less pain and fatigue and were better able to manage their arthritis after eight weeks.
In another recent two-year study of people with mild arthritis, more than half the participants experienced a significant reduction in pain after following an exercise program.
Other studies have shown that one of the biggest barriers to people with arthritis exercising is their lack of knowledge about its benefits and their lack of confidence that they are able to exercise. But there are benefits whether you have mild or advanced arthritis, and no matter your age.
According to the Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center, exercise will help ease your arthritis in several ways:
There are different types of exercise and all have benefit, as the Mayo Clinic explains:
Range-of-motion exercises ease stiffness and keep your joints moving. These might include raising your arms over your head or rolling your shoulders forward and back. You can do these every day.
Strengthening exercises build up your muscles that support and protect your joints. You can get formal weight training at a gym, or you can do simple exercises at home. If you're just getting started, you can even use cans of soup as weights. Only do weight lifting every other day and give it a rest if you notice swelling around your joints.
Aerobic exercises are the ones that keep your heart healthy and promote your overall fitness. They will ease your arthritis by helping you keep weight off and giving you stamina to keep up your exercise routine. With arthritis, low-impact exercise is the best. Try walking, riding a bike or swimming.
It's good to check with your doctor or a physical therapist to help you decide which exercises are best for you. Try to find activities that you enjoy and that you'll be able to stick to.
Be careful not to overwork a joint by doing too many repetitive motions. And avoid joint-jarring exercises such as jogging, tennis or jumping jacks.
Arthritis Today, the journal of the Arthritis Foundation, has produced short videos to teach you exercises that will benefit your arthritis. To find a program in your area that can work with you to develop an exercise routine, contact your local Arthritis Foundation office.