If you’re living with the daily stiffness and pain of arthritis, exercising is probably the last thing you feel like doing. However, if you have arthritis, getting regular exercise is critical as it reduces joint pain, increases strength and flexibility, reduces fatigue and helps you maintain a healthy weight. If you join a group exercise class or take up a low impact sport with a friend, exercise will also improve your social life.
Depending on your personal situation and interests, there are dozens of different activities you can participate in to ease the effects of arthritis. Speak to friends and visit your local community centre to determine which activities are in your area. Chores like vacuuming, gardening and walking are great exercise too – you don’t need to enrol in an organized activity. Just remember, before starting a new activity or intensifying the frequency of an existing one, speak with your doctor to make sure the activity is right for you.
To provide maximum benefit and decrease your pain, you need to include an assortment of range of motion, strength and endurance activities in your weekly exercise program. Range of motion or stretching exercises ease stiffness, improve balance and strength and help keep your joints flexible. If arthritis is affecting your lower limbs and impacting your mobility, consult your healthcare provider or a fitness expert about stretches that will help such as hip, knee and ankle bends, leg lifts, and toe spreads.
Strengthening exercises help to make your muscles and surrounding tissue stronger which helps to decrease stress on your joints and support your bones. There are lots of strengthening exercises to choose from including gardening, hiking, cycling, yoga, tai chi and climbing stairs.
Endurances exercises strengthen your heart and lungs which will improve your cardiovascular health and increase your energy levels. Brisk walking, swimming, jogging, dancing and tennis are just some of the endurance activities you can choose from.
When you are living with arthritis exercise helps to increase your mobility. However, you need to build up your activity levels gradually and rest when you experience pain. If arthritis is affecting your feet or lower limbs, wearing supportive, orthopaedic footwear for all of your activities is critical to maintain your comfort, protect your feet and improve your balance. Speak to your local Canadian Certified Pedorthist about your personal exercise program and he/she will recommend and professionally fit the footwear that is best for you.
By Anthony Harper, C. Ped (C), Burlington, Ontario