Of course we should all eat right, control our weight and get exercise. But joint problems can make these goals even more difficult. The following frequently asked questions help highlight the special benefits to your health and the special challenges you may face.
Can exercise really affect my lifestyle?
Americans could significantly improve their health and quality of life by practicing some form of physical activity on a regular basis. According to the Surgeon General’s Report on Physical Activity and Health, regular, moderate physical activity is beneficial in decreasing fatigue, strengthening muscles and bones, increasing flexibility and stamina, and improving an overall sense of well-being.
Remember, you don’t need to lift weights or train for the marathon. Just do something active on a regular basis.
Is there a specific benefit of exercise for an arthritis sufferer?
Yes. Exercise helps to:
- Keep joints moving
- Strengthen muscles around the joints
- Strengthen and maintain bone and cartilage tissue
- Improve overall ability to do everyday activities
- Improve health and fitness by:
- increasing energy level
- improving sleep
- assisting weight control
- improving overall cardiovascular condition
- decreasing depression
- improving self-esteem and emotional health
What happens if I don’t exercise?
Lack of exercise contributes to:
- Smaller and weaker muscles
- Brittle bones
- Disfigured joints that stay in one position for so long that the ability to straighten them may be lost
- Loss of mobility in joints that may become locked in a position if they are not routinely worked
What type of exercise programs should an arthritis sufferer use?
For most people, a balanced exercise program is best. However, before you begin an exercise program, you should consult a physician on a program that is tailored to your needs and that considers your joint health. It should include a combination of the three main types of exercise:
- Range-of-Motion Exercises: These are basic stretching exercises to keep joints supple and mobile by moving them through their full “range-of-motion”. Make sure that you get the advice of a medical professional about which kinds of this exercise you should do and which joints to focus on.
- Strengthening Exercises: These are beneficial because they help maintain or increase muscle strength. Some special exercises have been developed that allow you to strengthen muscles without putting stress on joints. They may involve pulling or pushing against an object that does not move (such as the floor or wall). These “isometric exercises” can be as simple as just flexing and relaxing certain muscles.
- Endurance Exercises: These are beneficial because they strengthen the heart, while making the lungs more efficient and improving stamina. They also help improve your sleep, aid weight loss and lift your mood. Examples are walking, cycling and swimming.
Before you begin an exercise program, you should consult a physician or a physical therapist, especially if you have not exercised in a while, have had any surgical procedures, or are over age 40.