Arthritis exercise

by Nathan Wei, MD, FACP, FACR

Nathan Wei is a nationally known board-certified rheumatologist and author of the Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit. It's available exclusively at this website... not available in stores.

Click here: Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit

Probably the most forgotten but also one of the most important treatments for arthritis is exercise. In fact, exercise is as important as medication, in my opinion.

Most experts agree... exercise is essential for people with arthritis. Exercise increases energy levels, helps produce good quality sleep, helps with weight control, maintains a healthy heart, increases bone and muscle strength as well as flexibility, reduces depression and fatigue, and helps to improve self-esteem and self-confidence. So why wouldn't one exercise?

Movement keeps joints mobile. Joint support is facilitated by muscle strengthening. Joint movement is critical to transport of nutrients and waste products to and from the cartilage.

Range-of motion exercises are gentle stretching exercises which move the joints in all directions. Range of motion (ROM) exercises are especially important for rheumatoid arthritis patients who have inflammatory joint pain. RA patients are often reluctant to take their joints through a full range-of-motion because of pain as well as because of the fear they might cause damage. Not true. Also, there is a belief held by many that normal activities of daily living take joints through their full range-of-motion but this is not true. Normal daily activities, such as housework, dressing and undressing, bathing, and cooking, and the like, are not a substitute for formal ROM exercises.

Strengthening exercises help increase muscle strength which in turn helps keep the joints more stable. The two types of strengthening exercises are isometric and isotonic. Isometric exercises consist of tightening the muscles, without moving the joints. These exercises are useful when joint motion is impaired. By contrast, isotonic exercises strengthen the muscles with joint movement.

Strength improvement can be achieved in a number of ways. These include machines or free weights. Any weight training should be done under the supervision of an experienced therapist.

Strength training has the another benefit: preventing osteoporosis.

Endurance (“cardio”) exercises are physical activities that accelerate the heart rate up to the optimal target level for at least twenty to thirty minutes. The target heart rate is based on age and physical condition. These exercises improve cardiovascular fitness. These exercises should be performed three times a week and mixed with resistance and stretching exercise. Many arthritis patients who do endurance exercises see not only an increase in their physical conditioning, they also develop a better mental outlook, and an improvement in arthritis symptoms. Unfortunately, not all arthritis patients can perform endurance exercises. Patients with long-standing rheumatoid arthritis and who have functional disabilities may be unable to participate with this type of activity. Endurance exercises for arthritis patients need to be selected carefully to avoid joint injury. Exercises which are no impact or low impact are advised.

Walking, water exercises or swimming, and bicycling are the best options for endurance exercises for arthritis sufferers. For water exercises, the water should be between 83 and 90 degrees. These exercises put less stress on the joints and the warm water helps to relax muscles and reduce pain. The water helps support the body while the joints are moved through a full range-of-motion. The buoyancy of the water places less stress on the hips, knees, and spine.

Other forms of exercise such as t’ai chi or yoga also are beneficial.

Get more information about arthritis exercise as well as...

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Click here Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit

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