Arthritis is a general term used to refer many diseases related to pain, stiffness, and swelling in joints and connective tissue. Exercise reduces joint pain and stiffness and increases flexibility, muscle strength, and endurance. It also helps with weight reduction and contributes to an improved sense of well-being.
Exercise is one part of a comprehensive arthritis treatment plan. Treatment plans may also include rest / relaxation, proper diet and medication.
Range-of-motion exercises help maintain normal joint movement and relieve stiffness. This type of exercise helps maintain or increase flexibility. Range of motion exercises can be done daily and should be done at least every other day.
Strengthening exercises help keep or increase muscle strength. Strong muscles help support and protect affected joints. Strengthening exercises also can be done daily and should be done at least every other day unless you have severe pain or swelling in your joints.
Aerobic or endurance exercises improve cardiovascular fitness, help control weight, and improve overall function. Weight control can be important to people who have arthritis because extra weight puts extra pressure on many joints. Endurance exercises should be done for 20 to 30 minutes three times a week unless you have severe pain or swelling in your joints.
Before you start, you should discuss exercise options with your doctor. Many people with arthritis begin with easy, range-of-motion exercises and low-impact aerobics.
It is best to find a physical therapist who has experience working with people who have arthritis. The therapist will design an appropriate home exercise program and teach you about pain-relief methods, proper body mechanics (placement of the body for a given task, such as lifting a heavy box), joint protection, and conserving energy.
Apply heat to sore joints (optional; many people with arthritis start their exercise program this way).
Stretch and warm up with range-of-motion exercises.
Use cold packs after exercising (optional; many people with arthritis complete their exercise routine this way).
Add aerobic exercise and also include appropriate recreational exercise (after doing range-of-motion, strengthening, and aerobic exercise).
Ease off if joints become painful, inflamed, or red and consult with your doctor to find the cause and eliminate it.Choose the exercise program you enjoy most and make it a habit.