Arthritis is inflammation of one or more joints. It involves the breakdown of cartilage that protects a joint, allowing it to move smoothly while also absorbing shocks. Without the normal amount of cartilage, the bones rub together, causing pain, swelling (inflammation), and stiffness.
Exercise helps lessen pain, increases range of movement, reduces fatigue and helps you feel better overall. A well-rounded workout routine for people with arthritis includes flexibility exercises to increase range of motion, aerobic exercises to improve endurance and decrease fatigue, and strengthening exercises to improve muscle fitness. The key is to have a regular exercise program. Work up to 15 minutes of flexibility exercises a day. Once you can do 15 continuous minutes, you should be able to add strengthening and aerobic exercises to your routine.
Strengthening exercises can help build your muscles so they can absorb shock and protect your joints from injury, as well as help you get around better. These exercises use weight or resistance to make your muscles work harder, thereby helping them get stronger.
Strengthening exercises should be done every other day after warming up with some flexibility exercises.
Try to include aerobic activity in your fitness program three to four times each week, with a goal of working in your target heart rate for 30 minutes each session. You can work up to this goal slowly, starting with as little as 5 minutes and increasing as you get stronger and are able.
Protect the joints — People with arthritis need to take a few extra precautions to protect their joints while exercising. The following tips are recommended:
- Walk on flat level surfaces, especially if prone to hip, knee, foot or ankle problems.
- Wear supportive footwear such as athletic shoes
- Avoid jarring movements and high impact activities such as running.
- Respect pain, do not ignore it, and monitor for pain during exercise.
- Start slow and increase activity gradually.
- Pay attention to posture and alignment.
- Do not take excess pain medication prior to exercise; this can mask pain and cause you to over-exercise.
- Caution is recommended after a knee or hip replacement. High impact sports such as running, football, baseball, basketball, and soccer are not recommended. However, participation in non-impact or low-impact sports such as swimming, cycling, or walking is encouraged.