Written by Lisa Allen, MD
Arthritis is a debilitating condition that causes severe bone and joint pain and inflammation in millions of adults across the globe. About 70% of North American cases reported were in those over the age of 65. There are many different variations of arthriti including Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and Psoriatic Arthritis just to name a few.
While there are many underlying factors that create and exacerbate this disorder, most research has suggested that it mainly has to do with genetics, age, and potential trauma to joints from injuries. Although doctor’s often prescribe a pharmaceutical oral medication routine to help treat and manage symptoms, one of the most effective ways to increase mobility and maintain a healthy range of motion is to perform a variety of daily arthritis exercise in addition. Always consult with your doctor before beginning a new exercise routine to make sure that the regiment you choose will be complimentary to your lifestyle and condition.
I’m sure you have heard the phrase at one time or another “a body in motion, stays in motion” and that rings particularly true for those suffering from arthritis. Moving your bones and joints in a controlled and healthy way through arthritis exercise will benefit your quality of life in so many ways. One major improvement you should notice after several weeks of your new routine is a reduction in fluid and inflammation which can make it very difficult to move around and do basic tasks. Getting started with exercise is easy and can either be done assisted through a Physical Therapy professional, Orthopedic, or other Medical Professional or can be done on your own with some basic instruction. Since Medicare and other insurance plans can be particular about what types and amounts of Arthritis Physical Therapy they cover, it is often most affordable to begin a self directed exercise program.
The key in choosing an exercise program that will be best to manage your Arthritis symptoms is to find activities that are low impact on your joints, and that you enjoy doing. Strengthening the muscles surrounding your bones will not happen over night, but over time it will drastically reduce the pressure normally put onto your joints. The following suggested exercises would make great additions to the lifestyle of anyone looking for relief from the pain and restrictions caused by this condition.
Aerobic Water Exercises
Doing exercises in the pool at your local gym or recreation center (or in the comfort of your own home if you are so lucky) is a phenomenal way to reap the benefits of exercise with extremely low impact on your body. Since your knees and legs won’t be pounding on pavement, your joints will barely feel anything while you are gliding through the water like a fish. It doesn’t have to be an exact science about what type of movements you do. You can swim laps in the pool using your favorite stroke (breaststroke, butterfly, crawl, backstroke etc., or you can stay in the shallow end and do water aerobics while holding onto the side of the pool. If you decide that you would like to try the aerobic exercises and need some ideas on specific moves, television personality Suzanne Andrews, has this YouTube video that has come excellent ideas on choreography you can try in the pool.
Another great idea that many people love to aide in their Arthritis treatment is Yoga. While it might sound intimidating, Yoga isn’t just for young, flexible dancer types. There are plenty of beginner level classes or classes with modifications that can accommodate even the most inexperienced fitness participant. If you are looking for a gym in your area that offers an affordable option for Yoga classes, you can apply for financial aid through your local YMCA chapter. You may have to provide some documentation, especially if you are a Senior that receives SSI benefits, but some applicants can receive completely free membership based on income. However, if you decide you would like to simply do Yoga exercises in your own home there are a couple great resources for poses you can mix into your routine.
Light Intensity Walking
While it might seem obvious, doing some walking around your neighborhood or on a treadmill at a light pace a few times a week can tremendously improve your Arthritis over time. It is important to know your comfort level, and if your joints begin to hurt too much take frequent breaks until you build up a tolerance to the new activity level. If you find that the outdoor scenery isn’t exciting enough to keep you interested, you can try listening to music as you walk or grabbing a few friends to keep you company on your walk.
Stretching and Flexibility Exercises
Many Physical Therapy patients utilize a series of stretches and exercises designed to increase flexibility, precisely the type that are so effective for those suffering from Arthritis. These movements can be done in the comfort of your own home and most only require your body or a simple, cheap rubber resistance band so there is no expensive equipment needed. The idea of performing these motions is that the repetition strengthens your muscles and joints over time. If you opt to do these on your own, Dave Schmitz, a certified personal trainer has a YouTube video detailing 12 different resistance band movements you can use.
If you notice after beginning a new exercise routine that you have any difficulty with pain, swelling, inflammation, ability to breathe, heart function or any other abnormal symptoms at all you should immediately contact your doctor. Remember to always start slow and ease into a new program since you don’t want to push your body too hard, too fast. The American Medical Association recommends 15 to 20 minutes of heart elevating (but not exhausting) activity 3 times a week, but make sure a doctor approves your specific exercise therapy plan of course. Be sure to do some basic stretches first and do a 5 minute cool down phase at the end of your workout of choice.
Exercise will naturally cause a small amount of wear and tear on the body, but with preventative methods you can keep this under control. Never be afraid to apply heat or ice packs to your joints for 15 to 30 minutes following your exercise. This will cut down on any inflammation caused from “overdoing it”, or straining your muscles. Arthritis patients that also incorporate a healthy, balanced diet into their lifestyle along with exercise will experience the richest benefits over time.
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