Exercises for People With Arthritis

Photo Credit: Inmagine.com Copyright Free Use 2011
Arthritis can strike any joint in the body. Often the joints in the hands, knees and ankles are affected which may limit your mobility and seriously impact your quality of life. If you have been diagnosed with arthritis, it doesn’t mean you have to stop exercising. Regular exercise can help alleviate joint pain, increase flexibility and range of motion and strengthen your bones and muscles. See your rheumatologist for a thorough checkup and personal direction. Your doctor can advise you about specific exercises that can help improve mobility and reduce pain while avoiding damage to your joints. Avoid high-impact activities like running, jogging and sports such as tennis and basketball. Walking, swimming and low-impact aerobics can help keep you fit and lessen joint pain. Pilates, tai chi, yoga and other stretching-type exercises can help increase your range of motion and strengthen muscles. 
Range-of-motion exercises stretch your muscles and lessen joint stiffness. Stiff fingers can be exercised by making a fist and then stretching the fingers as far apart as you can and then repeating the exercise. Make a fist and then rotate your wrists in to the right and then reverse and rotate your wrists to the left. Repeat the exercise with your fingers extended. Increase your elbow flexibility by raising and lowering your elbows. Sit at a table and place your elbows on the table with your palms turned up toward the ceiling. Turn your hands over palms down on the table while keeping your elbows in contact with the table surface. Turn your hands back over. Repeat this exercise 10 times. Try stretching your arms in front of your body and turning your palms up and back down. While you are sitting at the table, exercise your knees. Raise and lower your feet by bending your knees up and down to increase knee flexibility. Next, point your toes and then relax your foot several times. Rotate your ankles clockwise 10 times and the counter-clockwise 10 times. 
Resistance training exercise strengthens muscles, which can help relieve pressure on joints and reduce joint pain. Ask your doctor which strength training exercises are safe for you before beginning a weight lifting program. Perform some biceps curls with light weight hand-held dumbbells. Do some leg lifts while wearing ankle weights to help strengthen the leg muscles. Isometric exercises help strengthen muscles with little or no impact on the joints. Stand with your back straight against a wall and drop your shoulders slightly. Look straight ahead and slide down the wall until your knees are bent and your body is in a “seated” position. Slide back up the wall and then repeat this exercise 5 to 10 times. Strengthen your thighs and hips by sitting on a chair and squeezing a medium-size exercise ball between your knees. Squeeze and relax repeatedly for about 10 repetitions. Increase repetitions until you can do at least 20. 
Low-impact aerobic exercise like swimming, biking and walking can strengthen all of your muscles, work all of your joints and improve your heart health. Try to walk, swim or ride a bicycle for at least 30 minutes every day. If you can’t set aside a full half-hour block of exercise time, get your 30 minutes of low-impact aerobics in 10 minute increments throughout the day. Swim 10 to 15 before breakfast or after work. Walk for 10 minutes in the afternoon and ride a bicycle for 10 minutes in the evening.

For more information about managing arthritis pain, see:

Mayo Clinic, Rheumatoid Arthritis, 2010
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About Robin R.
I’m an AFPA certified personal trainer & nutrition consultant, NASM certified corrective exercise specialist, NASM certified youth exercise specialist, online fitness coach and freelance writer specializing in health and fitness. I hold a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of San Francisco and a Master of Science in natural health. I specialize in weight loss, functional strength training, total body toning, aerobic conditioning, plyometric training, nutrition planning, and home-based boot camp style workouts for women. My goal is to make every personal training session fun and effective for my clients. My services include both in-home personal training and online fitness coaching.

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