“Use it or lose it!” This is a common expression in healthcare. Reality is we will lose the ability to do things if we stop trying. This is especially true regarding our ability to walk, bend, lift and bear weight. The expression applies to everyone however, it is especially relevant for those of us living with arthritis. Arthritis can be painful! Exercising through the pain never sounds enjoyable. However, in the long run, regular exercise and physical activity can reduce pain and maintain range of motion.
When I say exercise, I am referring to any activity that gets the body moving. This does not mean you have to join a gym or take on a strenuous program. Many activities can be done at home. The bottom line is that we need to increase our heart rate and move our muscles. Increasing muscle strength protects our joints and our bodies in general. Increasing our heart rate improves cardiac health, increases oxygen within our bodies and lowers blood pressure. Together these actions keep our bodies healthy and moving!
Ideally, we should be physically active for 30 minutes most days of the week. Let 30 minutes of activity be a goal! Keep in mind, it does not have to be done all at once! It is okay to start low and slow. For those with painful arthritis, start out by being active for 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes later in the day, gradually increasing time as tolerated. Frequency is more important than duration. If you cannot sustain 10 min, move as often as possible and notice that your tolerance will increase.
Those with arthritis can follow the safety tips below to help build an exercise routine:
- Warming up with a slow walk.
- Start with low weights or no weight at all.
- Work on a flat surface.
- Wear supportive footwear.
- Avoid twisting joints.
- Support joints with braces as recommended by your healthcare provider.
- Let pain be your guide, if you feel pain, stop and modify what you’re doing.
- Cool down with a slow walk.
Exercising does not have to be a miserable experience, but it does take commitment and consistency. Choose to move as much as possible. Take the first step towards managing your arthritis. Make one change at a time. Set one goal at a time. Set goals that are attainable! Take this step towards controlling pain, maintaining range of motion and taking charge of your arthritis as well as your overall health!