Keep moving with arthritis

Exercise helps relieve the aches and pains of arthritis.

If you have arthritis you may find movementWoman lifting weight difficult, and sometimes painful. You may be inclined to sit, lie down or otherwise keep from moving. Perhaps you feel you need to take it easy in order to keep from injuring yourself. Michigan State University Extension health and nutrition experts say that moderate physical activity can actually help reduce the pain, stiffness and fatigue that can result from arthritis. For maximum benefit, your heart rate should be increased for at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week. That adds up 2.5 hours a week. For some people, 30 minutes at one time may be too much. If that’s the case for you, then try 10 minutes at a time, three times a day.

What does “moderate” physical activity” mean? If you’re exercising at a moderate pace you should be able to talk while performing an activity, like carrying on a conversation, reciting a poem or talking out loud to yourself, but not being able to sing. You can also rate your exertion on a scale of zero to 10, with zero being no exertion, and 10 being the most difficult. A moderate level would be three to five on the scale.

What kinds of activities could you do? There are many options. First, you’ll want to choose something you enjoy doing. Dancing, swimming, walking and biking are a few possibilities. Whatever you choose, remember that it should get your heart rate up and keep it up for a total of 30 minutes each day. If you participate in physical activity at this rate for five days a week, you will notice less pain and stiffness after about four to six weeks.

Once you have established a routine you might want to consider adding strength building exercises on two days of the week. Strength building exercises are usually done against resistance, such as with weights. This type of exercise has also been found to improve arthritis. Be sure not to do strengthening exercises two or more days in a row. You’ll need at least a day in between to allow your muscles to rest.

You’ll want to be sure to start slowly, especially if you have not recently been physically active. You can gradually work up to 30 minutes per day. Shorter intervals of five to 10 minutes are perfectly fine as a starting point. Be sure to listen to your body. If you feel severe pain or if you’re unable to carry on a conversation, you are probably pushing yourself too hard. Remember, some activity is better than none at all.

Finally, be sure to start and end at a slower pace so your body can warm up and cool down. For example, if you’re walking, start and end with five minutes at a slower pace. You may even find that gentle stretching before and/or after your physical activity may help make the exercise more comfortable.

There are so many benefits to moderate physical activity! After you’ve been doing it for a while you’ll feel less pain, be able to move more easily and feel more energetic. Regular physical activity has also been found to improve mood as well as keep muscles, bones and joints healthy. There are many good reasons to get up and get moving today!

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