Surprisingly, many seniors who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis or fibromyalgia think they should no longer exercise. Some feel that the pain is just too much and to exercise would just hurt their joints. Actually, exercise is one of the best things they can do to improve their health.
Arthritis sufferers quickly lose flexibility if they do not exercise. The right exercises can build muscle, decrease stiffness of joints, minimize fatigue and elevate your mood, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Exercise is also good for your heart, making it stronger while lowering blood pressure and improving cholesterol levels. The best prescription is to work on losing weight at the same time; a 10-lb. weight loss will reduce knee pain (or other joint pain such as in the hips) by as much as 50% and delay the chance of joint replacement.
The CDC urges low-impact exercise, combined with stretching exercises that enhance joint function. Doing 30 minutes of moderate physical exercise five times a week—all at once or in 10-minute increments—is the ideal recommendation. It’s best to check with a doctor before starting an exercise regimen.
Here are some suggested types of exercise that are beneficial for arthritis sufferers:
Examples: walking, dancing, low-impact cardio machines (i.e. elliptical trainer), stair climbing.
There are two types of resistance training: isometric (contracting the muscle without moving the joint) and isotonic (strengthens the muscle by moving the joint). A physical therapist or personal trainer can make sure each move is done correctly at home or in a gym.
Tensing muscles—then relaxing them—can strengthen muscles without the risk of pain that may come from regular strength training.
Example: Isometric Chest Press
Hold arms at chest level and press the palms of your hands together as hard as possible. Hold the press for 5 seconds, then rest for 5 seconds. Repeat for a total of 5 repetitions, building up until the press can be held for 10-15 seconds at a time.
Using free weights, machines or elastic bands several times a week can significantly strengthen muscles, which increase joint support.
Water doesn’t put any pressure on joints, and feels great. Deep or shallow water aerobics classes provide a great, fun workout (often to music), combined with some resistance training. Or swim your favorite strokes for at 30 minutes at a time. Warm water also raises body temperature, which increases circulation.
Just going out of the house each day and walking around the neighborhood can improve your heart and lung strength, as well as overall endurance. The weight-bearing benefits of placing your body weight on bones and joints helps build bone density. The National Arthritis Foundation has an online walking tool, “Walk with Ease,” that provides tips and routines.
This ancient Chinese exercise system can strengthen muscles while improving flexibility, balance and range of motion. Its slow-moving poses, circular movements and breathing techniques also provide mental calmness. People with arthritis enjoy tai chi because it is low-impact and can be done inside or outside.
Yoga exercises can lessen stiffness and tension in muscles and joints, and provide breathing techniques that help calm the body.
Stationary or Outdoor Cycling.
Getting on a bike—outdoors or indoors—can improve hip, knee and heart function. This low-impact exercise should be started in short time cycles, and lengthened as endurance gets stronger.
It’s never too late to start an exercise program that can lessen the pain of arthritis. With so many varied choices, there is something for everyone.
At Home Care Assistance of Fort Worth, we put a high priority on physical and mental well-being. Our in home care programs include solutions that can help seniors with arthritis to enjoy life more, with an emphasis on movement and range of motion.