When your joints are swollen or stiff, exercise might seem like the last thing you want to do. But it may be just the solution to help ease your arthritis pain.
Exercise is often included in arthritis treatment plans, and as your primary care providers at MyNP Professionals in Brown Deer, Wisconsin, we often help our patients get started with exercise routines for arthritis. Are you curious about the benefits of exercise? Here, we explore the top four ways exercise benefits arthritis.
1. Exercise improves your joint mobility
Exercising increases the range of motion in your joints and promotes flexibility. This aspect of exercise helps to counteract the stiffness and decreased range of motion that are often associated with arthritis.
Gentle yoga and stretching exercises can help improve your mobility and flexibility. If your joints are particularly stiff, ease slowly and gently into any stretches that you do. Other exercises, such as walking or water aerobics, can also help reduce joint stiffness.
2. Resistance training leads to stronger muscles
Exercise builds lean muscle mass, and that means more strength. As muscles become toned and strengthened through resistance training, they absorb some of the force of walking, which takes the pressure off of weight-bearing joints.
You don’t need to lift heavy weights or use expensive equipment to build lean muscles. You can even use your own body weight as resistance to build muscle. For instance, you can strengthen your thigh muscles by doing this simple exercise to reduce the strain on your knees:
- Sit in a chair
- Lean forward
- Stand up using your thighs to propel you up
- Sit down, engaging only your thigh muscles
Aerobic exercise — such as walking, hiking, dancing, swimming, and cycling — strengthens other muscles, including your heart and lungs. This benefits your overall wellness and helps reduce your risk of other medical conditions that arthritis could complicate.
3. Exercise helps reduce joint pain
Exercise improves your mobility and strengthens your muscles, and together, these two benefits of exercise reduce your pain in a few ways. Exercise:
- Replenishes lubrication to the cartilage of your joint
- Reduces stiffness
- Improves your quality sleep (lack of sleep can intensify chronic pain)
- Promotes weight loss, which can also help take the strain off of your joints
- Improves your mental wellness
Studies show that regular exercise reduces pain by increasing serotonin and taps into the endogenous inhibitory systems to provide pain relief. The same study noted that too much vigorous exercise could induce pain if your joints are pushed beyond their limits.
It’s important to strike the balance between moderate activity and strenuous activity, especially if you have joint pain. Tip: If you find your joints sore after a walk or a bike ride, you can use a cold compress to reduce swelling.
4. Exercise leads to improved balance
Some people with arthritis report feeling unsteady on their feet, especially if the affected joint is a weight-bearing joint. Yoga and tai chi are also types of exercise that promote good balance. The better your balance, the less likely you are to experience a trip or fall that leads to injury.
Tips for getting started with a new exercise plan
At MyNP Professionals, Rosalyn McFarland, DNP, and Clarissa Lawrence, DNP, are happy to help you get started with exercise safely. While exercise is good for arthritis, it’s important to get medically cleared before exercising, especially if you have an underlying condition such as diabetes, if you’ve never exercised before, or if it’s been a while since you last exercised.
Once you’re cleared to exercise, keep these tips in mind:
- Begin each exercise session with a warm-up and end each session with a cool-down
- Stretch daily
- Focus on low-impact activities
- Prevent overuse injuries by mixing up your activity
- Wear the right shoes for your intended activity
- Stay hydrated
Remember that exercise can be fun! Hiking, dancing, cycling, and walking are all wonderful ways to get fit and help improve your joint health.
Arthritis pain doesn’t have to keep you from enjoying life, and exercise can help. Call our office at 414-269-4206 or book an appointment online to learn more about managing your arthritis with our concierge medicine services.