Physical Activity for Arthritis

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physical activity for arthritis

Why is physical activity important for people with arthritis?

If you have arthritis, participating in joint-friendly physical activity can improve your arthritis pain, function, mood, and quality of life. Joint-friendly physical activities are low-impact, which means they put less stress on the body, reducing the risk of injury. Examples of joint-friendly activities include walking, biking and swimming. Being physically active can also delay the onset of arthritis-related disability and help people with arthritis manage other chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. Learn how you can increase your physical activity safely.

How much activity do I need?

Stay as active as your health allows, and change your activity level depending on your arthritis symptoms. Any physical activity is better than none.

For substantial health benefits, adults with arthritis should follow the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommendations for Active Adult or Active Older Adult, whichever meets your personal health goals and matches your age and abilities. Learn more at the Physical Activity Guidelines website.

How do I exercise safely with arthritis?

Walking eases arthritis pain. Older man and woman walking outside.

Learn how you can safely exercise and enjoy the benefits of increased physical activity with the S.M.A.R.T. tips below.

  • Start low, go slow.
  • Modify activity when arthritis symptoms increase, try to stay active.
  • Activities should be “joint friendly.”
  • Recognize safe places and ways to be active.
  • Talk to a health professional or certified exercise specialist.

Start low, and go slow

When starting or increasing physical activity, start slow and pay attention to how your body tolerates it. People with arthritis may take more time for their body to adjust to a new level of activity. If you are not active, start with a small amount of activity, for example, 3 to 5 minutes 2 times a day. Add activity a little at a time (at least 10 minutes at a time) and allow enough time for your body to adjust to the new level before adding more activity.

Modify activity when arthritis symptoms increase, try to stay active.

Your arthritis symptoms, such as pain, stiffness, and fatigue, may come and go and you may have good days and bad days. Try to modify your activity to stay as active as possible without making your symptoms worse.

Activities should be “joint friendly.”

Choose activities that are easy on the joints like walking, bicycling, water aerobics, or dancing. These activities have a low risk of injury and do not twist or “pound” the joints too much.

Recognize safe places and ways to be active.

Safety is important for starting and maintaining an activity plan. If you are currently inactive or you are not sure how to start your own physical activity program, an exercise class may be a good option. If you plan and direct your own activity, find safe places to be active. For example, walk in an area where the sidewalks or pathways are level and free of obstructions, are well-lighted, and are separated from heavy traffic.

Talk to a health professional or certified exercise specialist.

Your doctor is a good source of information about physical activity. Health care professionals and certified exercise professionals can answer your questions about how much and what types of activity match your abilities and health goals.

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