Exercising with Osteoarthritis

According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis and is seen especially among older people. Sometimes it is called degenerative joint disease, the institute says. Osteoarthritis mostly affects cartilage, the hard but slippery tissue that covers the ends of bones where they meet to form a joint. Healthy cartilage allows bones to glide over one another. It also absorbs energy from the shock of physical movement. In osteoarthritis, the surface layer of cartilage breaks and wears away. This allows bones under the cartilage to rub together, causing pain, swelling, and loss of motion of the joint.

Over time, the joint may lose its normal shape. Also, small deposits of bone—called osteophytes or bone spurs—may grow on the edges of the joint. Bits of bone or cartilage can break off and float inside the joint space.

While this diagnosis can be discouraging, the experts at the G04Life division of the National Institute on Aging say that studies show that people with osteoarthritis benefit from regular exercise and physical activity.

Exercise can help you maintain healthy and strong muscles;  preserve joint mobility; maintain range of motion;  improve sleep; reduce pain; keep a positive attitude and maintain a healthy body weight.

Three types of exercise are best if you have osteoarthritis:

Flexibility exercises can help keep joints moving, relieve stiffness, and give you more freedom of movement for everyday activities. Examples of flexibility exercises include upper- and lower-body stretching, yoga, and tai chi.

Strengthening exercises will help you maintain or add to your muscle strength. Strong muscles support and protect joints. Weight-bearing exercises, such as weight lifting, fall into this category. You can use bottles of water or soup cans if you don’t have weights.

Endurance exercises make the heart and arteries healthier and may lessen swelling in some joints. Try low-impact options such as swimming and biking.

You may need to avoid some types of activity when joints are swollen or inflamed. If you have pain in a specific joint area, for example, you may need to focus on another area for a day or two.

The Go4Life experts emphasize that before beginning any exercise program, you should talk with your health care provider about the best activities for you to try.

For more information on senior fitness, visit Go4Life.

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