Arthritis is a general term that refers to pain and swelling of one or more joints. Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, affects 24% of the adult population. It is generally referred to as “wear and tear” arthritis, although there is a strong genetic link to the likelihood of developing osteoarthritis, particularly in the knees and hands. Obesity, injuries, repetitive occupational motions, and weak muscles can all contribute to the development of osteoarthritis. The most commonly affected joints are the knees, hips, spine, and hands.
There is no specific treatment for osteoarthritis. In the end stage, when the disease has destroyed the joint, it can be replaced to relieve the symptoms and improve physical functioning. However, many people can avoid the end stage by regular joint-friendly exercise to keep their muscles strong and their joints mobile.
What Types of Activities Relieve Arthritis Pain
According to the CDC, low-impact exercises can relieve arthritis pain and improve joint function, mood, and quality of life. Low-impact exercises work the muscles, heart, and lungs without placing too much stress on the joints. Low-impact exercises include:
- Aquatic exercises, such as swimming, water aerobics, and water jogging
The CDC recommends a well-rounded program of exercise that includes at least:
- 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes per week of high-intensity exercise, or some combination of both
- Two sessions per week of muscle-strengthening activities
- One session per week of balance-improving and flexibility activities
Arthritis Workouts To Strenthen Muscles
Many people think “muscle strengthening” means going to the gym and using machines and heavy weights. That is one approach to strengthening muscles, but it tends to be high-impact and not very joint-friendly. It is possible to strengthen muscles at home without any exercise equipment at all.
For example, the Sworkit low-impact muscle-strengthening workout can be completed while lying on a yoga mat. It includes basic exercises such as the plank and crunches to strengthen the core, the downward dog movement to strengthen the glutes, modified push-ups and triceps dips to strengthen the shoulders, and clamshells to strengthen the legs. It provides an entire body workout in 30 minutes without placing any stress on sore knee joints.
The Sworkit basic strength workout is a low-impact full-body workout that takes 30 minutes and only requires a wall and a chair to complete. It includes the familiar lunges, leg and arm lifts, wall push-ups, and crunches, and it modifies the squat by adding a chair assist to reduce stress on the knees.
Arthritis Exercises To Improve Flexibility
Dynamic stretching helps improve flexibility. In dynamic stretching, each joint is slowly moved through its complete range of motion. A standard dynamic stretching program takes 15 to 30 minutes and includes full range of motion exercises for all of the joints, including the spine.
Yoga is an increasingly popular option for improving flexibility. Yoga is naturally low-impact and joint-friendly, and practitioners report it improves mobility, flexibility, posture, balance, and muscle strength.
Arthritis Workouts To Improve Balance
Balance is an often-overlooked component of fitness routines. Falls are a major cause of injuries among older people, and regularly engaging in body awareness, balance, and core stability activities can significantly reduce the risk of falls.
Some very simple balance exercises include standing on one leg (hold onto a chair or wall for safety if necessary), marching in place, chair squats, and looking over one shoulder while walking forward.
Low-Impact Arthritis Workouts Are Key
Many people affected by arthritis mistakenly believe that “resting” their sore joints is the best approach to managing their condition. Multiple scientific studies have shown otherwise; low-impact exercise is the key to keeping your joints mobile and reducing your pain. An exercise program that incorporates aerobic exercise, muscle strengthening, flexibility, and balance is vital for living well with arthritis.