Exercise and Arthritis – What To Do?

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Can you think of anything you own that improves with use? Most things will only wear down; your car, your laptop, your coffee maker, and even your clothes. Your body is different. With the proper use and care, it improves and grow stronger.

When it comes to your joints, this is especially true. Proper movement will help them grow stronger, perform better, and prevent and treat arthritis. Even if you already have rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis, exercise is a proven means of reducing pain, improving function, and decreasing joint inflammation.

EXERCISE & ARTHRITIS GUIDELINES

Follow these exercise rules to help you manage arthritis and prevent further joint damage:

  • The wetter, the better: Exercising in water reduces stress on the joints due to buoyancy,
    and the pressure of the water helps decrease swelling and improve healing.
  • Stretch it out: Arthritis tends to stiffen joints, which is not only uncomfortable, but negatively impacts other joints during movement. A focus on active and static
    stretching, as well as massaging, can increase range of motion.
  • Practice movement: A resistance training program using weights or your own body weight can help. Practice exercises that mimic everyday movements, like squatting, stepping, reaching, balancing, and pushing.

This will strengthen joints and tendons while teaching your body to function better with your daily activities!

*When joints are inflamed, red, hot, or swollen, avoid exercise and stretching. See “Recover-Three” and “Medicinal Nutrition” below to learn how to manage pain symptoms.

SELF-ASSESSMENT

Which areas of your body concern you? In which areas do you have pain, discomfort,
stiffness, or repetitive cracking/popping?

  • NECK
  • SHOULDER
  • ELBOW
  • HANDS
  • LOWER BACK
  • KNEE
  • ANKLE
  • OTHER?

HARD AND FAST RULES

  • Pain = No gain. Since pain inhibits muscles, training through a painful range of motion is not ideal. Move the joint as far as you can without sharp pain.
  • Move slowly. When doing resistance exercise, keep the movements slow and controlled. This will minimize joint stress, and decrease chance of injury.
  • Start light, but not too light. When strength training, use a weight that you can do at least 10 times, but not more than 14. This will be challenging, but won’t cause damage.
  • Move more. Simple rhythmic movement, like walking, swimming, or bicycling, can maintain needed blood flow to the affected joints.

Contact me as your Wellness Coach to help design a program using these three principles.

RECOVER-THREE

We forget that we don’t necessarily get stronger while we exercise – we get stronger after exercise, but only with a few key strategies in place. Also, with arthritis, we do not want
to rely solely on pain relievers to recover, which can have negative side effects. Try these three strategies for recovery:

  • RICE – Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation
  • Hydration – Just like an engine needs oil, our body needs water to help lubricate our joints. Ballpark your recommended daily water intake by dividing your body weight by two. Try to build up to that many ounces each day!
  • Sleep – Getting 6-8 hours a night in a pitch black room can help increase the ability to repair joint damage.

Which of these strategies is missing from your lifestyle and arthritis management plan?

WHAT ABOUT AEROBIC?

One goal for long duration exercise is to reduce overall load on the joints, so we should opt for lower impact exercises, especially when beginning a routine.

  • Walking
  • Jogging
  • Elliptical
  • Swimming
  • Biking

MEDICINAL NUTRITION

A healthy diet and certain supplements can help reduce inflammation. Here are a few key nutrients to help your joints grow stronger following exercise:

  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids – Reduces inflammation throughout the body. They can be found in fish, walnuts, flax seeds, or by supplementing with fish or krill oil.
  • Glucosamine/Chondroitin – Helps replenish joint tissues and lubricate joints. Try eating meat on the bone, or by making bone broth. This can also be taken in supplement form, if you prefer.
  • Vitamins and Minerals – Increases the health of joints and helps maintain the joint’s structure, while reducing stiffness and inflammation. Eating a variety of colorful vegetables and fruits is a great way to “feed” the joints.

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