Getting Exercise When You Have Arthritis

Squeezing a regular exercise routine into your busy schedule may be the last thing you feel like doing, especially when you’re experiencing the joint pain and stiffness that accompanies arthritis. But exercise is a vital component of successful arthritis treatment.

The key to success is developing a well-rounded program that you enjoy, that gets you moving in all the right directions, and that protects your joints from further damage.

Dr. Scott M. Lund is a well-respected chiropractor in Encinitas, California, who has worked with countless patients to design personalized, arthritis-friendly exercise programs that his patients can stick with and even learn to love. He’s happy to share a few professional insights about exercising when you have arthritis.

Check with your doctor first

There’s no doubt that exercise is one of the most successful, non-drug therapies available for arthritis. But exercise comes in many forms, and the type that’s best suited for you depends on the nature, severity, and location of your arthritis.

For instance, low-impact aerobic activity like walking is often recommended if you have arthritis in your back or knees. For some, however, even walking may cause more “impact” than your joints should experience. In that case, I might recommend an exercise program that uses water activities or a stationary bike to increase your endurance.

Because understanding the extent of your arthritis is crucial to developing a successful exercise plan, I also recommend that my patients at Lund Chiropractic start with a full examination and careful review that may include range of motion testing, X-rays, and other diagnostic studies.

My goal is to develop a life-long exercise strategy that improves and preserves your joint and muscle health rather than a short-term, temporary fix for your symptoms.  

Strike the right balance

When many people think of exercise, they think of endurance activities such as running, walking, or biking. And it’s true that building endurance through aerobic activity is important. This type of exercise does wonders for your heart and pulmonary health, improves your energy levels, and can help you shed excess pounds.

However, a balanced program is the most effective exercise strategy, and that’s especially true for arthritis treatment. Your program should include endurance training as well as strengthening exercises, range of motion activities, and stretching for flexibility and relaxation.

Range of motion

Starting your day with a series of shoulder rolls, arm raises, and other range of motion exercises can help relieve the stiffness that keeps your joints tight and painful. You can also use these simple exercises to get moving again after you’ve spent a long morning at your computer — or any time you feel the need to loosen those stiff joints.

Strengthening

Strength training exercises build strong muscles that help support and protect your joints. And you don’t have to lift heavy weights to gain real benefits from this type of exercise. Pushups and squats without added weights, leg lifts with resistance bands, and biceps curls with 3-pound dumbbells all strengthen specific muscles and protect corresponding joints. Make sure you’re always using appropriate form with these exercises to prevent strains and sprains.

Stretching

For increased flexibility, traditional, gentle forms of yoga and tai chi improve your balance and posture, which can help prevent falls, and promote relaxation as they stretch your muscles. As you become experienced in these ancient practices, you can also include strength training exercises in your workout by moving on to more advanced poses such as the plank.

Keep it interesting

Successfully incorporating an exercise plan into your schedule often relies on your feelings about the activity. Many people find it boring to move through the same routine day after day, and that makes it easier to quit. You might vary your walking program by using a treadmill one day and joining a group of outdoor walkers the next or take a swim class instead to stay engaged and motivated.

Regardless of your age or current fitness level, Dr. Lund can design an exercise program that gets you moving again and protects your joints.

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