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Exercise and Arthritis. Your Best Options.

Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints and it can affect one or multiple joints. There are numerous different types of arthritis, with different causes and treatment methods. Two of the most common types are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Over 50% of people 65 years and older have osteoarthritis. It is a degeneration of joint cartilage and the underlying bone, most common from middle age onward. It causes pain and stiffness, especially in the hip, knee, and thumb joints. Arthritis won’t get better through exercise. More importantly, though, it won’t get worse. Exercise should be one of the main forms of treatment for osteoarthritis of the hip and knee.

For those who are getting up in years, exercise has added benefits. As we age, our joints and muscles don’t function as well. Arthritis compounds that problem. Muscles surround the joint, and when muscles are bigger and stronger, the joint is more protected.

A major benefit from exercising: People with arthritis who exercise regularly have less pain, more energy, improved sleep, and better day-to-day function. Starting slowly with low-intensity exercises and gradually building up strength and stamina is the formula for anyone that has arthritis who is beginning a new exercise program. The big thing is keeping stress as low as possible. 

Avoid anything that would make your arthritis worse, such as running, jumping, high-impact exercise and repetitive motions. Devote a good amount of time to a daily routine and the end result is worth it. Start with heat, using compresses, showers or hot pack for about 20 minutes. Follow that with gentle stretching to build up a range of motion. They are simple exercises: raising your arms above your head, rolling your shoulders and the like. Spend 5 to 10 minutes a day on that, even if that’s your only exercise program that day.

wimming is the best. Water takes all the pressure off the joints. You can walk in water, which is 12 times more resistant than air, or swim about. It doesn’t matter. The water is buoyant and relieves joint pain. Water aerobics are also great, especially with a good teacher. It’s a low-impact workout that is perfect for almost anyone and cushioned by the water. Local YMCA’s have great aquatic exercise programs for people with arthritis.

Aerobics also include walking, biking or using one of the many low-impact cardio machines that gyms specialize in. A goal is to exercise should be about 30-60 minutes a day. But if you don’t have the time, just three days a week will help. It’s important to get moving! If you have other health issues, it's always a safe bet to check with your doctor before you start an exercise program.

Tai Chi is the Chinese exercise of gentle movements, and it’s great for older people with arthritis. You can take classes at the local Y or JCC or your local health club. You can also stream Tai Chi on your TV with Amazon Prime. They have lots of different instructors for different ability levels too.

Yoga is another excellent option. There are yoga classes on TV daily and also on Amazon Prime. The real secret is a gentle movement.  It is important to stop whenever you felt pain. When the workout is over, apply ice to relieve joint pain and to reduce any possible swelling. The whole point is to go slow. Gradually built up your daily exercise routine, stamina, and strength.   

The important thing is stay off the couch. You will be able do so much more than you ever thought possible. Get moving, enjoy life again!