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Senior Resources » 10 Tips for Exercising with Arthritis

10 Tips for Exercising with Arthritis

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Arthritis can be incredibly painful and make everyday tasks difficult. But staying active and engaging in regular exercise can help. In fact, exercise might just be an essential part of managing arthritis symptoms. It can help you maintain strength and flexibility, reduce inflammation, and even improve your mobility. But, while it’s important to keep your joints moving, starting an exercise routine with arthritis may not be the easiest thing. Here are 10 tips that can help!

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1. Understand Your Arthritis

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Arthritis is essentially joint pain characterized by swelling, tenderness, and stiffness in one or more joints. Arthritis affects a significant number of seniors, with statistics showing that approximately 50 million adults aged 65 and older in the United States alone are living with some form of it. Arthritis can affect different joints in different ways, so it’s important to discuss your condition with your doctor and get a clear understanding of what types of exercise and movements will be most beneficial for you.

2. Start Small & Slow

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If you’re new to exercise or haven’t been active in a while, it’s important to start small and gradually increase the intensity and frequency of your workouts. Low-impact activities like walking, swimming, or cycling can be a great way to ease into exercise and build strength without putting too much strain on your joints.

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3. Don’t Work Through Excessive Pain

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Avoid working through the pain. Now, I know we just said to keep moving only a few paragraphs ago, but if you’re experiencing an excessive amount of pain, then it may be a sign of inflammation and you should probably seek medical counsel before continuing on.

4. Choose the Right Activities

Senior Fitness with Meredith Arthritis Stretches

When choosing exercise activities, it’s important to select movements that will help improve your range of motion and strength without causing pain or further damage to your joints.

Stretching exercises are great for maintaining flexibility and range of motion. They help to loosen your muscles and prepare you for more vigorous exercise. Incorporate stretches such as toe touches, shoulder stretches, and hamstring stretches that are easy on the joints.

Low-impact exercises that don’t put too much stress on the joints are your friend. These include swimming, cycling, walking, and yoga. These exercises help maintain joint mobility and can also help to build and maintain muscles that support the joints. Swimming is an especially effective low-impact exercise because it provides a full-body workout without putting any weight on the joints.

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Strength training is an essential part of any exercise routine, but it’s especially important for those with arthritis. Building muscle will help to support the joints and reduce pain. But it’s important to do strength training exercises correctly, using proper form and not overdoing it. It’s also important to focus on the muscles that support the joints that are most affected by arthritis. Gradually increasing weights and reps can help build strength and reduce pain.

Avoid activities that involve high-impact or repetitive motions. This includes things like running and jumping or high-impact aerobics.

5. Use Proper Posture & Form

arthritis posture Senior Fitness with Meredith

Poor form or alignment can put unnecessary strain on your joints, causing pain and discomfort. Consider working with a certified trainer or physical therapist who can help you learn proper form and alignment for each exercise you do.

6. Warm Up

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Before any exercise, it’s important to warm up properly. This helps to increase blood flow to the joints and muscles, which can reduce inflammation and reduce joint stiffness. Start with 5-10 minutes of light aerobic exercises like walking, cycling, or arm circles. Then do some gentle stretching exercises that stretch the major muscle groups, focusing on the muscles that support the joints you’ll be working on during your exercise.

7. Rest & Recovery are Just as Important as Exercise

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Rest and recovery are just as important as exercise, especially with arthritis. It’s important to listen to your body and take rest days when needed. When you do exercise, focus on quality over quantity. It’s better to have shorter exercise sessions that are pain-free than to push through and risk injury. Also, ice and heat therapy can be effective in reducing inflammation and pain. Use ice after exercise sessions, and heat therapy can be done before or after exercise to help loosen up the muscles.

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8. Invest in the Right Equipment

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Don’t hesitate to invest in the right equipment to make your workouts more joint-friendly. Using the right stuff can make a world of difference. Be sure to purchase comfortable and supportive shoes that will help you move with ease. Also, consider incorporating weights, resistance bands, and balance balls into your exercise routine. These tools can help to strengthen your muscles, providing additional support for your joints.

9. Listen to Your Body

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It’s important to listen to your body and make adjustments as needed. If you experience pain or discomfort during exercise, stop and rest or modify the exercise to make it more comfortable. Don’t push yourself too hard or ignore warning signs from your body.

10. Consider Consulting with a Physical Therapist

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A physical therapist can provide guidance regarding exercises that are ideal for your condition, help you keep proper form, and work with you to develop a routine that is most effective for you. They can also help identify any exercises that may be causing discomfort and suggest modifications that can help you exercise without pain.

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Originally published May 28, 2024

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