Arthritis can make otherwise tasks like running or even walking painfully difficult. Defined as a group of chronic conditions that cause inflammation of the joints, arthritis is an all-too-common problem that prevents people from enjoying their lives. According to the Arthritis Foundation, more than 31 million adults in the United States suffer from some degree of arthritis. Unfortunately, many of these people struggle to exercise because of the pain and inflammation associated with this condition. If you struggle to exercise because of arthritis flareups, consider the following tips.
Why Exercise Is Important For Arthritis Sufferers
Exercise is important for everyone, but it’s particularly important for arthritis sufferers. As explained by The Mayo Clinic, it strengthens muscle tissue around the inflamed joints, thereby reducing stress and tension on them. Exercise also promotes healthier, stronger bones so that they can adequately support the weight of your body and minimize pressure on your joints. Furthermore, regular exercise has been shown to relieve chronic pain. When you exercise, your body will produce feel-good chemicals like oxytocin and endorphins. As these chemicals are released into your bloodstream, it boosts your mood and relieves joint pain.
The Exercise Paradox
Of course, the problem is that many people who suffer from arthritis struggle to exercise because it’s so painful. Whether you experience inflammation in your knuckles, wrists, knees, shoulders or elsewhere, arthritis pain is often intensified — at least initially — from physical activity. When you get up and start moving, you may experience an arthritis flareup in which pain manifests in the affected joint or joint. This shouldn’t prevent you from exercising, though. Rather, you’ll need to selectively choose low-impact exercises that allow you to stay active but without exposing your joints to significant stress or pressure.
Choose Low-Impact Exercises
What is a low-impact exercise exactly? The term “low impact” refers to any exercise or physical activity that places little or no pressure on your joints. Most exercises place at least some pressure on your joints. When you perform dumbbell bicep curls, for example, the weight of the dumbbells places pressure on your elbows and wrists. And when you perform pushups, the weight of your body places pressure on your shoulders. To protect against arthritis flareups and reap the long-term pain-relieving benefits of exercise, you need to choose low-impact activities.
Swimming is perhaps the best all-around exercise for arthritis sufferers. It differs from other exercises by exposing your body to water. Even if you only doggie paddle, swimming places minimal pressure on your joints as the buoyant properties of water keep your body afloat.
Start Small and Increase Physical Activity
Don’t overexert yourself when exercising if you suffer from arthritis or other forms of joint pain. It’s best to start small by keeping your exercise sessions short and gradually increase the duration and intensity of your exercises over time. You may want to exercise for just 15 to 20 minutes every other day at first. Assuming this don’t worsen your arthritis, you can work your way up to 30 minutes every other day. The American Heart Association (AHA) currently recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week. So, make this your goal when creating a workout plan.
Drink Plenty of Water
Be sure to drink plenty of water before, during and after exercising. Staying hydrated will protect you from arthritis flareups by lubricating your joints and reducing bone-on-bone contact. Some medical experts recommend drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day, which is typically a good rule of thumb to follow. Keep in mind that soda or other sugary beverages should not be substituted for water. While sugary beverages can hydrate you, they’ll flood your body with excess processed sugar that contributes to body fat, blood sugar spikes and chronic inflammation. If you’re looking to get your arthritis under control, only drink plain water or unsweetened tea or coffee.
Consider Compression Wraps
Depending on the severity of your arthritis, you may want to wear a compression wrap around the affected joint or joints. Compression wraps are designed to fit snug around your skin so that it stabilizes the corresponding joint and protects it from inflammation and pain. You’ll often see bodybuilders and athletes wearing them for this purpose. It only takes a few minutes to place a compression wrap around your joint, but doing so can relieve arthritis pain and inflammation in the joint.
Let Your Body Rest
Even if you choose low-impact exercises, which you should, it’s still a good idea to give your body time to rest thereafter. Exercising day after day with no rest breaks between can worsen your arthritis symptoms. So, space out your exercises by resting for a day. If you exercise on Monday, for example, rest on Tuesday and wait until Wednesday to exercise again.
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