Arthritis affects over 50 million adults. There are many different types of arthritis but osteoarthritis is the most prevalent, classified as “wear and tear” arthritis. This form mainly affects weight-bearing joints such as the knees, hips, neck, and lower back.
People with arthritis may have difficulty being active because of their symptoms, such as pain and stiffness. It may seem counterintuitive, but staying active and regular exercise is extremely important for those living with arthritis. Inactivity can worsen pain and puts adults at greater risk for loss of mobility.
Regular exercise can have many benefits for individuals with arthritis. Movement increases the blood flow to cartilage and strengthens the muscles surrounding joints, thus protecting the damaged cartilage. Additionally, exercise promotes sleep and getting a full night of sleep is crucial for arthritis patients. Typical arthritis symptoms can worsen with fatigue. Exercise can help manage other chronic conditions as well, such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
Patients with arthritis should always discuss starting a new exercise regime with their physician. The doctor can outline the best exercises for each unique situation and determine if the patient would need the aid of a physical therapist. Speaking with one’s physician first is also important so the doctor can evaluate the patient’s overall health and how strenuous the exercises should be.
Exercises for arthritis patients should include a mix of range of motion, strength, and low impact endurance training, both of which are important for managing pain. Some examples of appropriate low impact exercises are walking, swimming, and cycling – using either stationary or recumbent bicycles. With a doctor’s monitoring, it is best to start slow and gradually increase in time and frequency.