By Tanise Edwards, M.D
Published in Healthy Mind Healthy Body
Do you have a good pair of walking shoes that you've put away because your joints hurt? Maybe you worry that moving more is only going to make the pain worse.
Then, here's something you should know: When done properly — and with your doctor's advice — exercise can actually help your joints ache less.
Making the case for exercise
So, how exactly can physical activity help ease your arthritis? For one, it strengthens the muscles that support your joints, which may help take pressure off them. It also increases blood flow — bringing joints the nutrients they need to be healthy. And, it can help you stay flexible. All that can add up to less pain and stiffness in the long run.
Another important benefit: Exercise can help you control your weight. That means fewer pounds of pressure on weight-bearing joints, such as knees and hips. Dropping even a few pounds may ease pain and help you get around better. And, moving more may make you feel good in other ways, too. It can help:
- Boost your energy and mood
- Manage stress
- Improve your sleep
A step in the right direction
It's important to talk with your doctor before beginning a new exercise routine. He or she can suggest safe workouts — based on the type of arthritis you have and how it's affecting your joints. Your doctor may also refer you to a physical therapist for help.*
Swimming, walking or riding a stationary bike are often recommended for people with arthritis. These activities are gentle on the joints — and can be a good aerobic workout.
Yoga and tai chi are other popular options. They can help with balance, strength and flexibility. And, lifting hand-held weights — or using elastic exercise bands — can build up the muscles that help support and protect your joints.
No matter how you choose to move, it's best to start slowly, rest often and build up your endurance over time. There may be days you need to take it easy — for instance, if your joints are unusually sore or swollen. And, that's OK. You can do more on the days you feel better.
Your doctor can help you recognize the signals that it's time to slow down or change your routine. And, he or she may suggest treatments that would help you exercise more comfortably.
Be patient with yourself and your body. With time and the right moves, you can enjoy the physical and emotional benefits of an active life with arthritis.
*Check your benefits plan to see what services may be covered.
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© 2013, United HealthCare Services, Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.
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