Having arthritis can be painful and limit your mobility. Sometimes, it can feel like getting good exercise is impossible, but the truth is that there are many ways to get moving and see results even if you’re living with arthritis. You have a lot of options allowing you to create a workout routine that fits your needs, style and personality. My personal favorites are low impact aerobics, weight training, stretching, yoga and Pilates.
It’s important to remember, at all times, that your health and wellness are the most important things and to be protective of your body. If any exercise causes you pain, listen to what your body is telling you and stop; ignoring or trying to push through the pain will always do more harm than good. The point of exercise is to invest in your body’s well-being, after all.
If done consistently, these exercises can help prevent stiff joints, build muscle, improve endurance, and benefit your heart, bones, and your overall mood and sense of well-being while still being safe to do with arthritis.
Here are a few of my go to exercises:
1. Low Impact Exercises
Aerobic exercises that are low impact like walking, swimming, cycling or running on an elliptical machine don’t just help get your heart rate up and blood pumping, but they can provide a lot of benefits for people with arthritis. These exercises help joint pain and stiffness as well as increasing muscular endurance and bone density. If any activity is too painful, don’t hesitate to modify the movement until it feels comfortable. For example, if it is difficult to walk on pavement you can try a walk in the water, which causes much less stress on your joints. Aim for 100 minutes per week of a combination of several of these activities.
Pilates is an ideal way to strengthen your muscles and stabilize your joints. One of my top recommendations if you have arthritis is the shoulder bridge. Start by laying on your back, bend your knees and place your arms along each side of your body. Exhale as you contract the abdominals and lift your pelvis. Try not to arch your back or hyperextend your knees. Inhale through the nose and hold the position for 10 seconds up to a minute. Exhale to lower your pelvis back to the ground and repeat the exercise.
Another great exercise to try if you live with arthritis is yoga. I recommend gentle yoga, not power yoga or hot yoga which both can exacerbate the symptoms associated with a flare. An easy, slow form of yoga like Yin yoga or Iyengar promotes a healthy immune system and helps reduce joint inflammation. Plus, gentle stretching is great for maintaining mobility and movement.
4. Range of Motion Exercises
Range of motion, or ROM, exercises relieve stiffness and increase your ability to move your joints through their full range of motion. These exercises might include movements such as raising your arms over your head or rolling your shoulders forward and backward. In most cases, these exercises can be done daily.
5. Strength Training
The most important thing to remember when you’re working with weights, especially if you have arthritis, is to start slowly. Weight training is a strengthening exercise that can help you maintain or increase your muscle strength over time. When starting a strength-training routine, a three-day-a-week program can help you jump-start your improvement, but two days a week is all you need to maintain your gains.
Whenever you start a new exercise routine, remember to take it slow and pay lots of attention to your body to avoid injury or harm. If you haven’t been active for a while, it’s important to give your joints time to ease into exercise again. If you push yourself too hard, you can overwork your muscles and worsen your joint pain. Trust your instincts and don’t exert more energy than you think your joints can handle. Always take your time— you can slowly increase your exercise length and intensity as you progress.