Senior Health

4 Ways Exercise Helps Arthritis

Exercise is one of the best things you can do for yourself, but if you suffer from arthritis, it’s easier said than done. However, according to the experts from Harvard Medical School, regular exercise will help you maintain your joint functioning and reduce stiffness, pain and fatigue.

The experts say that if you have arthritis, make sure you exercise programs has these goals:

A better range of motion (in other words, improved joint flexibility/mobility). To increase your range of motion, the Harvard experts say, move a joint as far as it can go and then try to push a little farther. Do this gently.

Stronger muscles (through resistance training). No equipment needed. You can use your own body weight as resistance to build muscle, the Harvard experts say. For example, this simple exercise can help ease the strain on your knees by strengthening your thigh muscles: Sit in a chair. Now lean forward and stand up by using only your thigh muscles (use your arms for balance only). Stand a moment, then sit back down, using only your thigh muscles.

Better endurance. Aerobic exercise (walking, swimming, bicycling ) will strengthens your heart and lungs, increasing endurance and health. The Harvard experts advise that you avoid activities that will your joint and thereby increases endurance and overall health. Avoid high-impact activities such as jogging. And if you are having a flare-up of symptoms, hold off until the symptoms have died down.

Better balance. There are simple ways to work on balance. For example, the Harvard experts say, stand with your weight on both feet. Then try lifting one foot while you balance on the other foot for five seconds. Repeat on the other side. Over time, work your way up to 30 seconds on each foot. Also good for balance: yoga and tai chi.

Remember to check with your doctor before beginning or altering any exercise program.

For more on managing arthritis, buy Living Well with Osteoarthritis, a publication of Harvard Medical School. Click here to order.