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Arthritis can make physical activity more difficult. In spite of that difficulty, exercise is an important part of staying healthy for men and women with arthritis. Even moderate physical activity can strengthen bones and muscles and increase joint flexibility, making it easier for arthritis sufferers to perform daily tasks.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, men and women with arthritis should commit to regular exercise that includes three types of activities: flexibility exercises, strengthening exercises and cardiovascular exercises.
Consult a physician before beginning any exercise regimen, and discuss any limitations your specific condition might place on your physical abilities. Such limitations might diminish as your exercise regimen progresses, but it’s important to exercise within those limitations at the onset to avoid injuries. It’s also important to consult your physician should you experience a flare-up of arthritis before, during or after exercise. Such flare-ups might require you to alter your routine, and your physician can help with such alterations.
Perform flexibility exercises every day, as they will protect your joints by reducing injury risk. Flexibility exercises, which are often referred to as range-of-motion exercises, help your body warm up for more strenuous exercise. Once you’re comfortable doing at least 15 continuous minutes of flexibility exercises, you’re likely ready to add strengthening and cardiovascular exercises to your routine. Many people with arthritis find yoga is an especially effective flexibility exercise, as it strengthens and relaxes stiff muscles and even aids in weight-loss efforts. Just don’t push yourself too hard when starting out with yoga, as the exercises are more difficult than they might seem.
Strong muscles reduce stress on the joints, something that’s especially helpful to arthritis sufferers. Strengthening exercises, also known as resistance exercises, build the body’s muscles so they’re more capable of absorbing shock and more effective at preventing injury to the joints.
When performing strengthening exercises, you will use weight or resistance to make the muscles work harder and grow stronger. Isometric strengthening exercises tighten the muscles without moving the joints, while isotonic strengthening exercises strengthen the muscles by moving the joints.
The Arthritis Foundation recommends performing strengthening exercises every other day and always in conjunction with flexibility exercises, which can be performed before and after strengthening exercises.
Walking, dancing, swimming and bicycling are examples of cardiovascular, or aerobic, exercises, which many people find the most enjoyable way to exercise. Cardiovascular exercises make the heart, lungs, blood vessels and muscles work more efficiently while improving endurance and strengthening bones.
Initially, cardiovascular exercises might be difficult for arthritis sufferers who have not exercised in a while.
However, you can gradually build toward 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise three to four times per week, and you will notice your endurance improves the more you commit and stick to your routine.
Include cardiovascular exercises as part of your larger routine, performing some type of aerobic exercise after strengthening exercises.
More information on exercising for people with arthritis can be found at www.arthritis.ca.