Today, 6 million Canadians are living with Arthritis (source: www.arthritis.ca) – that’s 1 in 5. And while there is no cure, a healthy lifestyle and regular exercise can help manage symptoms and improve overall quality of life.
Because Arthritis can make movement painful, especially when it affects load-bearing joints such as the spine, hips, knees, or hands, many people with Arthritis begin to avoid moving altogether. This decline in movement can actually lead to a quicker degeneration of the joint and worse symptoms down the line. It might seem paradoxical, but exercise is crucial to managing Arthritis! The right exercise increases strength and mobility, boosts and energy and can actually reduce joint pain.
Why Exercise is Important:
Exercise helps manage Arthritis symptoms in a number of ways.
- Exercise strengthens your muscles to support your joints. The stronger your muscles are, the less pressure you put on your joints (therefore less joint pain)
- Exercise promotes a healthy weight. Excess weight increases the pressure on your joints. Also, adipose tissue (body fat) releases inflammation-causing proteins.
- Exercise boosts your energy so that you can do the things you want to do in your day without being overly fatigued.
- Exercise improves your mobility, putting less strain on the joint itself.
- Exercise can help to reduce inflammation throughout the body as a whole. This reduction in inflammation allows for a less dramatic response to arthritis flare-ups and less pain as a result.
- Exercise makes it easier to get a good night’s sleep, allowing you to recharge and have more energy during the day!
What Type of Exercise Should I Do?
A well-rounded exercise program includes cardiovascular fitness, strength and mobility training.
Mobility exercises get your joints moving through their full range of motion, therefore improves your ability to move. A good mobility program will also target the muscles that are overly tight (for example the chest muscles) so that you improve your posture and reduce unnecessary stress on your joints. Examples include trunk rotations, arm circles, and gentle yoga. Mobility exercises are usually best-done everyday.
Strength training builds strong muscles to support your joints. A customized strength training program will also target the muscles that are weaker on your body (for example, the upper back and buttock muscles) to improve posture and correct muscle imbalances, therefore reducing stress on your joints. Examples of strength exercises include a hip bridge, wall sit or partial squats. Strength training is best done 2-4 times per week with at least one day of rest in between workouts.
Cardiovascular exercise improves your heart health, gives you more stamina and energy, and can help maintain a healthy weight. Examples include swimming or water aerobics, walking, cycling, or using low-impact cardio equipment such as the elliptical trainer. Cardiovascular training is best done 3-7 times a week for 20-60 minutes each time, at a moderate intensity (so that you can talk, but not sing).
Balance training does just that – improves balance, therefore improves overall function and prevents falls. Simple exercises such as heel-toe walking on a straight line or balancing on one foot will improve balance. Balance exercises are best-done everyday.
Tips to get started
Talk to your health practitioner if you are new to exercise
Start slow and gradually increase intensity or time of exercise (never both in the same week) and work your way up. Make a point to regularly stretch and move your joints.
Do low impact exercises: Low impact exercises such as biking or water exercise will minimize the stress on your joint
Warm-up before each workout: Your body and joints will take a while to warm up. Ease into your workout.
Listen to your body: you might need an extra day of recovery if your joints are inflamed. If something doesn’t feel right- back off!
It can help to apply ice to your joints after a workout to reduce inflammation
Get help: We are always here to help at Ascend Fitness + Lifestyle. Many of our current clients live with Arthritis. We can create an individualized and comprehensive plan that gives you the most benefit with the least aggravation of your joint pain.