Exercise works to maintain or regain strength and range of motion of joints. Other benefits include improved cardiovascular fitness and weight control. Exercise can also help in preventing and treating coronary (heart) artery disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis (fragile bones) and managing overweight. A sufferer’s mental outlook may also be improved. All of these benefits will improve a person’s ability to be independent. This means that the OA sufferer is able to do more for him or herself and gain more enjoyment out of life.
In some circumstances caution is needed, however. Previously injured joints may be more likely to develop arthritis with ongoing physical activity. As well, joints may not move or work properly, perhaps because of previous injuries. Those may need to be checked before beginning certain types of exercise. Take care not to overstretch loose joints. Although use helps, overuse may be bad for OA.
Before starting an exercise program, have a complete physical exam to be sure that exercise will be safe. This is especially true if you do not exercise regularly. A graded exercise or treadmill test is sometimes suggested to check that your heart and lungs are healthy. Your joints should be examined to make sure they are in good working order. If not, joints may need treatment such as bracing or limits on certain types of exercise.
Once you know it is safe, it is important to set goals for your exercise program. You will need to learn about exercises that will preserve or restore motion of joints, and increase strength involving joints.
Your exercise program should be designed specifically for you. Decide which function problems cause you the most trouble. For example, if you decide on aerobic exercise to increase your heart fitness, but OA affects your knees, your plan would include leg muscle strengthening to specifically address the pain and weakness of the leg muscles.
Currently, aerobic exercise that adds up to 30 minutes on most days of the week is recommended for health. This exercise need not be strenuous. You might walk, climb stairs, swim or do water exercise. Include activities that are a part of your life such as golf or yard work. Flexibility and strengthening exercises are recommended for your affected joints. Often, these should be specifically designed for you. Consult a health care provider such as a doctor, physiotherapist or exercise specialist.
Exercise need not be strenuous. You might walk, climb stairs, swim or do water exercise. Include activities that are part of your life such as golf or yard work. Remember, exercise will get easier with time.
Adjust your program if you find that it is too easy or too hard. Signs that you are over-exercising include greatly increased joint pain or swelling after activity, soreness that lasts for more than two days, or excess fatigue. Some discomfort should be expected, particularly in the working muscles. Remember, exercise will get easier with time!
You can gain many benefits from regular activity, including heart health and weight control. Improving overall fitness helps your body work better and decreases health risks that come with an inactive lifestyle. An improvement in your arthritis is just one of the many advantages.