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Focus on Fitness for Osteoarthritis

Focus on Fitness for Osteoarthritis

More than 30 million Americans have a degenerative joint disease known as osteoarthritis. An ongoing loss of cartilage causes joint pain and reduced range of motion, stiffness, and swelling and can often lead to physical disability and reduced quality of life.

While you may worry that exercising with osteoarthritis could harm your joints and cause even more pain, studies prove that exercise is the most effective, non-medication treatment for reducing pain and improving movement. It can actually improve arthritis pain, function, and quality of life.

Regular, joint-friendly exercise can ease arthritis-related pain while strengthening joints and slowing the progression of the disease. It can also manage other chronic conditions like diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.

If you suffer from osteoarthritis and other general orthopedic issues, consider these five exercises beneficial to your health.

  1. Yoga and Pilates
    Strong muscles can support and protect the joints affected by osteoarthritis. During yoga or Pilates, there is very little stress on the joints and surrounding ligaments and cartilage. The elongating, strengthening movements of yoga and Pilates enhance flexibility, mobility, breath capacity, and peace of mind, and significantly reduce your symptoms and pain. You’ll reduce stress while alleviating aches and improving posture and alignment. Learn more about yoga and Pilates classes available at Frederick Health here.
  2. Water aerobics and aquatic exercises
    These are great for people new to exercise or overweight. Many people suffering from osteoarthritis are unable to perform certain land-based exercises due to the impact on the joints. But the water’s buoyancy is perfect for relieving the pressure of your body’s weight on affected joints, especially the hips and knees. It also provides resistance to your muscles, reduces pain, and improves daily function, heart function, and circulation to the muscles and joints.
  3. Tai chi
    Tai chi is another low-impact workout that’s gentle on the joints, too. It is especially beneficial for seniors or if you’re at risk of falling or having trouble walking. This balance exercise improves physical strength, mobility, and sense of well-being. Studies show that people who practiced tai chi twice a week had less pain and better physical function compared to those enrolled in other fitness programs. They also reported less depression and greater well-being. Tai chi classes are available through Frederick Health’s integrative medicine services.
  4. Walking
    This one’s free and easy on the joints. Walking improves your circulation, which wards off heart disease, lowers blood pressure, and strengthens the heart, too. Walking can also reduce the risk of fractures and tones the muscles that support your joints. From LiveWell Frederick’s Story Path to the many walking trails and parks in Frederick County, there are plenty of spots to enjoy a walk and improve your health and well-being, too.
  5. Low-impact aerobic activity
    This type of exercise does not put stress on the joints. It includes activities like bicycling, group exercise classes, or dancing. These activities have a low risk of injury and do not twist, bounce, or pound on the joints too much. They also reduce fatigue and build stamina while helping to control weight by increasing calories burned. For the greatest health benefit, do at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 1.25 hours of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise each week.

When exercising with arthritis, always follow these SMART tips:

  • Start low and go slow.
  • Modify activity when arthritis symptoms increase and try to stay active.
  • Activities should be joint-friendly.
  • Recognize safe places and ways to be active.
  • Talk to a health professional or certified exercise specialist.

That last step is crucial. Always talk to your primary care physician before starting a new exercise program. See your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following:

  • Pain that is sharp, stabbing, or constant
  • Pain that causes you to limp
  • Pain that lasts more than 2 hours after exercise or feels worse at night
  • Pain or swelling that does not get better with rest, medication, or hot/cold packs
  • Increased swelling or a “hot” feeling or “red” color around your joints

If you’re thinking about starting an exercise program to manage osteoarthritis and other orthopedic issues, consider Frederick Health ProMotion Fitness. We provide a safe, supportive environment to prevent and manage chronic disease. We can develop a plan tailored to your specific needs, plus you’ll begin safely and effectively under specialized supervision and guidance. Our staff are highly qualified, degreed, and credentialed and include registered nurses and exercise physiologists.

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