Arthritis exercises

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

Exercise is essential for people with arthritis.

Exercise improves energy, helps with sleep, helps with weight reduction, maintains cardiovascular health, strengthens bones and muscles, improved flexibility, improves mood, and increases self-esteem. Not a bad remedy.

Joint movement maintains mobility and keeps joints strong. Also, movement of joints is essential for transport of nutrients and waste products to and from the cartilage.

There are four major types of exercise for people with arthritis.

The first are range-of motion exercises which move each joint as far as possible in all directions. These exercises must be done daily to keep joints mobile and prevent stiffness and deformities. Range of motion (ROM) exercises are especially important for patients with inflammatory forms of arthritis since the temptation is to stay sedentary because of the fear of pain and injury. Activities of daily living are not a substitutefor ROM exercises.

The second are strength training exercises. Strengthening exercises are essential for maintaining muscle and joint conditioning. The two types of strengthening exercises are isometric and isotonic. Isometric exercises involve tightening the muscles, without moving the joints. These exercises are indicated when joint motion is impaired. Isotonic exercises strengthen muscles by moving the joints.

Strength training can be accomplished with machines, resistance bands, or free weights. Any weight training should be done under the supervision of an experienced therapist.

Strength training has the added benefit of preventing bone loss.

The third is endurance or “cardio” training which increases heart rate to the optimal target zone for at least twenty to thirty minutes. The target heart rate is computed based on age and physical condition. These exercises improve cardiovascular fitness. These exercises should be performed at least three times a week. Most arthritis patients will increase their strength, develop a better mental outlook, and even get an improvement in arthritis symptoms. Unfortunately, patients with long-standing arthritis may not be able to engage in this type of exercise if they have functional disabilities.

Walking, water exercises, swimming, and cycling are the best choices of endurance exercises for people with arthritis. These are good choices because they are low impact. For example, with water exercise, the water helps support the body while the joints are moved through the full range-of-motion. The buoyancy of the water places less stress on the hips, knees, and spine.

The fourth type of exercise is stretching. Stretching can be accomplished with t’ai chi or yoga.

If there is a real “fountain of youth”, it is exercise.

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