Joints connect bone to bone, and without them you wouldn’t be able to stand up or move around.
Many health conditions cause joint pain and anyone who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis knows how debilitating the pain and stiffness can be. Pain in the knee joint is the most common complaint, followed by the shoulders, hips, ankles, elbows, and wrists.
Joint problems due to arthritis become more of an issue as you age and even though the thought of exercise may be overwhelming, when done correctly it can be one of the best ways to relieve symptoms of arthritis.
Why should you keep moving despite joint pain and what are the top joint-friendly exercises?
It’s easy to assume physical activity makes your arthritis symptoms worse, but it doesn’t work that way. The opposite is actually true. Not moving adds to joint pain and stiffness.
Exercise is important for arthritis relief for many reasons. It strengthens the muscles that support joints and keeps your bones strong, both of which relieve pressure on your joints. Additionally, carrying around excess weight places extreme stress on your joints. Exercise is an effective way to help you manage a healthy weight and improve your joint health. Also, regular exercise increases your strength and stamina to make it through the day—even days that bring on arthritis pain.
Various types of range-of-motion, strengthening, and aerobic exercises are beneficial for relieving symptoms of arthritis. The location and type of joint pain may determine what exercises are safest and most effective, so it’s important that arthritis sufferers discuss an exercise regime with their doctor or physical therapist before starting on a program.
Since water keeps you buoyant and therefore removes pressure on your joints, two of the best workouts for those with joint pain are water aerobics and water walking. Join a class at your local health center or go on your own. Some facilities offer underwater treadmills or jogging belts to help you move through the water.
Another low-impact form of exercise is weight lifting. Done at home, at the gym, or even in a pool, lifting weights is a great way to strengthen your muscles and bones and stay in shape. Avoid further injury to your joints by starting with small weights and slowly building your strength by adding weight and sets. Overdoing it can cause more harm than good, so take your time.
Go easy on joints and get an aerobic workout with cycling. Riding a bicycle outdoors or a stationary bike indoors will work your heart without placing undue pressure on your joints. You can also get a low-impact aerobic workout with the elliptical trainer, though this machine is reserved for those who are in shape and have good balance.
For those who enjoy exercising with an instructor or following a video, Yoga, Tai Chi, and Pilates are additional forms of low-impact exercise with the potential of benefitting those with arthritis. The movements of these exercises increase mobility, flexibility, and strength.
Unless your arthritis is severe, walking is a wonderful aerobic activity to strengthen your bones and muscles. Just be sure to wear supportive, comfortable walking shoes.
Protect your joints and avoid further injury during exercise by listening to your body. Pushing yourself too hard in the beginning can make joint pain worse. Before your workout, spend a few minutes warming up your muscles with range-of-motion movements. As you exercise, be gentle on your joints with slow, fluid movements and slowly increase your intensity and duration over time. If you notice pain, stop your activity and apply ice.