If you want to maintain a good mobility as you grow older, you need to take care of your joint health. How to improve joint health? Well, there are several ways. The most important steps you need to take is drop those extra pounds and maintain a normal weight, embrace a healthy diet, as well as exercise constantly.
Exercise is not excluded for those suffering from joint pain. On the contrary, it’s strongly recommended. Being physically active can play a major role in keeping rheumatoid arthritis (RA) under control. According to the John Hopkins Arthritis Center, exercising on a regular basis has the power to strengthen the muscles around the affected joints, improve bone mineral density, lubricate and nourish the joint cartilage and reduce pain and stiffness.
Don’t know which physical activity is right for you? No need to worry. We’ve compiled a list of various workouts you can try to alleviate RA symptoms and improve daily functioning.
Walking is one of the best exercises for joint pain. Why is that? Because it doesn’t require special physical abilities or special equipment, it can be done anywhere and it’s absolutely free. Most importantly, it’s a low-impact workout and really gentle on your joints, including your knees and hips.
The link between walking and arthritis exists and has been scientifically proven by a study published in the Wiley Online Library. A 4-year program followed over 1.200 adults, aged 50 or older, suffering from knee osteoarthritis. During the 48 months, participants reported how much they walked and described their symptoms and their knee pain levels. At the end of the program, researchers discovered that those who walked regularly had significantly-lower odds of developing new frequent knee pain in comparison to the non-walkers.
If you want to make walking a daily habit, it’s advisable to start tracking your activity. This way you can set goals for yourself, watch your progress and find the drive to stay active. All you have to do is download a pedometer app like our own ActivityTracker. The app will automatically record your movement with the aid of the motion sensors (no GPS) and provide relevant info regarding your step count, distance, the calories burned or active time. You’ll be able to set your own fitness target and follow your activity in great detail, with data for your hourly, daily, weekly and monthly progress.
If going outside for a stroll is not an option at a specific moment and you’re stuck indoors, it doesn’t mean you can’t exercise. How about hopping on an elliptical trainer? This is an effective machine to burn some calories, boost your cardiovascular health and protect your knee and hip joints at the same time.
The elliptical trainer is a better option in comparison to the treadmill due to its low-impact nature. Jogging or running on the treadmill can put more stress on weight-bearing joints, such as your ankles and knees. It’s not the case though when you’re using an elliptical trainer. This is due to the fact that you are not lifting one foot at a time off the ground. Your feet are always in a fixed position on the pedals. The low-impact nature of the elliptical machine is confirmed by research.
When it comes to arthritis exercises for pain relief, you should always consider stretching. Stretching is a great workout because, first of all, it doesn’t put much pressure on your joints. It can be done within the comfort of your home, at your own pace and without having to resort to special equipment.
Stretching can help you improve your flexibility, which in return can increase the range of motion in your joints. According to a study, a 60-second stretch can lead to a visible improvement in range of motion in adults over 65 years. At the same time, this type of workout can boost the blood flow and circulation to the cartilages and muscles and alleviate aches and pains. Stretching can also aid us calm down and relax.
If you don’t know how to get started, you can take a look at these stretching exercises.
Tai Chi / Yoga
Tai chi and yoga are both recommended workouts for those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. These are exercises that involve breathing techniques, slow, smooth movements, as well as meditation. Therefore they come with a wide array of benefits not only on a physical level, but also on a mental one.
Tai chi and yoga can help you increase your flexibility and strength, improve your balance and coordination and relieve stress. According to research, practicing tai chi is an efficient method to treat knee osteoarthritis symptoms. Another study concluded that yoga can have a positive impact on young women with rheumatoid arthritis. More specifically, this exercise can reduce fatigue and pain and improve the mood.
If you don’t want to take up a tai chi or yoga class, you can find a multitude of YouTube videos, as well as mobile apps with step-by-step instructions.
Getting into the water can be a great workout idea if you’re dealing with joint pain and stiffness. Going for a swim, doing water aerobics or jogging represent an excellent alternative due to the buoyancy of the water, which supports the body and significantly reduces the impact on the joints and muscles.
The positive influence of water has been demonstrated by medical research. Scientists from the University of Texas at Austin analyzed the effects of swimming on middle-aged and older adults with osteoarthritis. At the end of the 3-month trial, they found out that regular swimming can reduce joint paint and stiffness and increase muscle strength. A different study, conducted by professors from the Federal University of São Paulo, discovered that aquatic exercise can lead to improvements in disease activity, pain and functional ability in women with RA.
So there you have it, this was our list of the best exercises for rheumatoid arthritis. The benefits of these exercises are real and have been confirmed by various scientific studies over the years. Being physically active can ease RA symptoms, decrease joint pain and stiffness, build up muscle and bone strength, increase flexibility and improve your overall mobility. Just make sure you work out on a regular basis to truly reap those health benefits.