Starting a regular fitness program is a vital step toward taking control of your arthritis. Most experts agree that regular, moderate exercise greatly improves joint flexibility and helps relieve pain and stiffness for people with arthritis.
- Choose low-impact activities you enjoy, like brisk walking, bicycling or swimming, that don't place too much stress on the joints. Avoid running and high-impact aerobic classes, which require jumping.
- Alternate between activities. You'll be more likely to stick with a varied, fun routine.
- Do aerobic activities for 20 minutes at least three times per week. Increase duration gradually.
- Exercise with a friend. You'll have a chance to socialize and have someone to offer you support and motivation.
- Try walking. It's easy, can be done indoors or outdoors and doesn't require special equipment.
- Always cool down after exercising, with a few minutes of slow-paced aerobic exercise and range-of-motion exercises.
Checklist for a safe workout:
- Consult your physician or other healthcare professional before beginning an exercise program.
- Never hold your breath during exercise. Breathe deeply and regularly.
- Stop exercising immediately if you feel sharp pain or are dizzy, nauseated or short of breath.
- Start slowly and gradually increase the length and difficulty of your workout. This may take several months. You'll be able to feel improvement in your strength and flexibility.
- Avoid quick, jerky movements. Smooth, gentle movements are easier on your joints and get better results.
- Take frequent breaks between exercises. Stop exercising if your body tells you you've had enough (but remember to cool down first).
- Drink plenty of cool water when you're exercising, especially on hot days.
- Moderate exercise should not cause pain. If pain does occur and persists for more than two hours after exercising, call a healthcare professional.
- For minor arthritis pain or muscular aches, an OTC pain reliever like Advil may be helpful. However, read the pain reliever's label first and follow its directions. If an OTC remedy does not relieve discomfort or if you are taking prescription medications for any reason, consult a healthcare professional.