You hear all about how exercising is good for the body and that you need to do so much of it a day. The problem is you’re struggling with your joints. While you want to exercise, the pain is unbearable some of the time. Whether it’s because of arthritis or another inflammatory condition, you find it hard to move them on a morning; let alone actually exercise.
But exercise can be beneficial for those with arthritis and sore joints. It’s just all about doing it carefully to support your joints, rather than making your condition worse. The great news is that aching and swollen joints don’t mean you can’t do any fitness at all.
Here’s you’re all in one guide to fitness when you have arthritis or sore joints. We’ll take you through the best types of exercises, the steps to take before and things to do afterward to improve recovery.
How Exercise Helps Your Arthritis and Joint Pain
Exercise does more than just help you lose weight, although this is highly beneficial for those with joint pain. When you have excess weight, you will put more strain on your joints and this can make your condition worse. But improving the fitness will also help to improve your actual joints, your muscles, and your bones.
A good exercise program will help to strengthen the muscles and tendons around your joints. This can help to ease the feeling of stiff joints and support the bones better. You’ll also maintain the physical bone strength, which helps to keep some of the weight from your joints and can ease inflammation.
Exercise has also shown benefits for improving balance. You’re less likely to fall over and twist your joints. This can help to reduce the excess strain or stress your bones are placed under.
There are also energy and sleep benefits. While you have more energy throughout the day, you will also sleep better on a night. Both will help to keep pain to a minimum while reducing the inflammation in the body. Your immune system works more effectively, helping to slow down the progression of the disease. You can even reverse some of the conditions.
Keeping the tissues and muscles strong is important to maintain bone health. Not only do you get rid of arthritis pain, but you can also improve your overall health. It’s easier to move on a morning and you will feel better within yourself.
Before you start any fitness routine, make sure you talk to your doctor. You want to make sure any routine is healthy for your health and needs and your doctor is the best person to help. A doctor will be able to find alternatives to some of the best options for joint health and can also refer you to a physical therapist if you need it. You’ll find routines that don’t aggravate your joints and make the pain worse.
You’ll also want tips for when your joints are most painful. It’s possible to have weeks where there is no pain and then days where you get flare-ups. A doctor or physical therapist will help determine the best option for you.
Remember It’s Not All About Physical Exercise
When managing arthritis and sore joints it’s not all about the physical exercise you do. There’s a lot of mental and emotional fitness that will help to improve your lifestyle. You’ll want to look for the types of exercises and programs that support your inner health. Look for those that will support your mental health.
By being in the right place mentally, you will find your hormones are more balanced. This helps to release the painkilling hormones, helping to keep the pain you feel to a minimum naturally. You’ll also have a more positive outlook, which can help you stick to a routine and work on healing the joints.
Then there’s the nutritional fitness. It’s important to follow a diet that is full of anti-inflammatory ingredients. You want plenty of vitamins and minerals, while also adding more protein to help improve the strength of your muscles. Stick to a diet that supports weight loss if you are overweight to help reduce the stress on your joints.
When you work everything together, you’ll be surprised at the way your joints feel. It’s amazing how natural remedies can help to ease pain and make you forget that arthritis took over your life.
This isn’t going to be a miracle cure, though. It does require motivation and hard work to improve your lifestyle and add more fitness into your life. You’ll also need to understand the difference between lack of motivation and genuine reasons not to exercise. Your doctor or physical therapist can give you tips on when you should take a step back from the physical exercise plan to support your joint health.
Protecting the Joints During Exercise
When you do pick up an exercise plan, you’ll want to follow one that protects your joints. You’ll also need to follow tips that will help to keep the impact on your joints to a minimum. After all, exercise can aggravate the disease or injury if you don’t follow the right tips.
One of the best things to do is start slow. There’s no need to rush into a five-day training program. While your doctor will tell you that 30 minutes a day, five days a week is good for you, this is the case for healthy adults. Just by adding a little more each day will help to improve your lifestyle and health. In fact, your doctor should give you tips to work up to that 30 minutes a day, rather than pushing you into doing the full 150 minutes a week of exercise.
Start by doing just two days a week and stick to 15-20-minute periods. You can break these up into two sessions of 10 minutes or even three 7-minute sessions to make it easier to fit the workout into your day. As you get used to the two sessions and don’t feel adverse effects, you can move up to doing three sessions and then four and finally five. Make sure you take two rest days a week to support your overall health. This isn’t just recommended for those with sore joints, but for everyone.
If you feel overtired or you’re struggling with excess pain, you may be doing too much. Step back a session or shorten your time and assess your options from there.
You also want to follow a low-impact exercise program. Running and jumping will put the knees and ankles under extra pressure and can make your arthritis worse. Look out for cross-trainer machines, bicycles and even take up swimming. You can also do exercises like yoga that will keep the impact on your joints to a minimum.
Walking is a good option. While it’s a slower version of running, you don’t quite get the same pressure on the joints. This can also be run to do with the family or with friends.
Keep your movements gentle. You’ll want to do a warm-up for 10 minutes or so before you start. This helps to stretch and warm the muscles, so they don’t tear or twist while you’re doing your activity. At the end of the session, make sure you also cool down and stretch. This will help to avoid the buildup of lactic acid, so you don’t suffer cramp and other pain.
If you feel any sharp pains while exercising, stop doing it. Your muscles may complain a little about the new movement, but you shouldn’t feel pain in the joints at all. This is a sign your joints aren’t ready for the type of exercise you’re doing.
Look After Your Joints Afterwards
When it comes to the end of your fitness sessions, make sure you look after your joints. Heat and ice treatments are two popular options, and both have their pros and cons. You can even alternate between the two, but many people have their own preference.
Heat helps to relax the muscles after a workout. You get the chance to prevent pain before it even begins and boost the healing process. There are a few options when it comes to heat treatments. A long soak in the bath is a popular one to do at home. However, you can also opt for a hot Jacuzzi or a sauna/steam room treatment. You can also use hot oils to massage into the skin, but make sure the oils aren’t so hot that they burn the skin! Massage them into the joints to help keep inflammation and pain at bay.
Cold treatments help to reduce inflammation and prevent swelling in the joints after the exercise session. You can stave off the pain before you even get any signs of the niggle. Apply ice to the joints for up to 20 minutes at a time to help ease the swelling. Some people can find the tensing of the muscles during ice treatments causes more pain in the joints, so you’ll want to work with the treatment that is best for you.
Another cold treatment is an ice bath. This is literally as it sounds! If you’re not brave enough for an ice bath yet, opt for a cool bath to help ease the joints. You can also improve your recovery time between exercise sessions.
What Exercise Can You Do with Arthritis or Sore Joints?
Now it comes down to the types of exercises to do. You’ll want to start off small and slow, so you want to find those that involve absolutely no impact on the joints.
One of the best types of exercise is anything that involves improving the range of motion. These exercises help to reduce stiffness in the joints. You can even do them in the bed when you wake up, making it easier to move first thing on a morning. These are the types of exercise physical therapists prefer you to follow, to begin with.
Some of the range-of-motion exercises include raising your arms over your head, moving the knees back and forth, swinging the hips out and back in and even rolling your shoulders. It’s all about improving the way your joints move to make it easier to go other types of exercise.
Then you can move onto strengthening the muscles. Weight-bearing, or resistance training are popular options, as you will build on the muscles and help to support the joints better. However, you don’t want to move straight into lifting hundreds of pounds to build muscle. Start small and work your way up.
Bodyweight exercises and resistance training are the most popular. You work with your own weight and abilities, listening to your muscles and joints. One of the great things about resistance training is you can specifically work on the tendons around the joints.
You’ll need to give the muscle groups a break throughout the week. On day one work on the legs and then work on the arms on day two. You can then do the core on day three and move back to the legs on day four. Don’t work on the same muscle groups two days in a row. The recovery period helps to build the stronger muscles.
Work with a three-day strength training program at first. You can switch down to two days when you start adding some aerobic exercises in.
Keep your cardio workouts as impact-free as possible. One of the best ways to start with arthritis is swimming. The water will hold your weight, making you feel lighter and help you do more. You also have the extra support for your joints. Think about the joints that hurt and motions that cause problems before trying any strokes.
You can do some weight training in the water using floats. Don’t put floats on your ankles, as you can end up losing your footing and tipping yourself upside down.
Other aerobic workouts include using the cross-trainer or a stepper. You can also try out walking or cycling, as they don’t require any impact on the joints. Opt for up to three aerobic sessions per week, alternating with your strength training is best.
Don’t forget about the benefits of yoga. This form of exercise is good for your mental health, as well as your physical health. When it comes to sore joints and arthritis, yoga is considered an excellent option by doctors and physical therapists. One of the greatest things is you get the range-of-motion exercises, while also building on your strength and focusing on your mental health. It’s possible to build on your flexibility and balance, reducing the risk of damaging your joints.
Yoga is something you can do in the home but consider signing up for classes at first. An instructor will help make sure you get the positions right to support all your joints. You can also talk about specific exercises to ease joints in your body. It’s even possible to get full routines that you can do weekly or even daily to support the health of your joints.
Add More Fitness to Your Day
Having arthritis or sore joints doesn’t mean you have to give up on your hope of exercising. You can still live healthily and follow recommendations from health professionals. It’s just about finding a fitness program that works for your joints and health problems.
The types of exercises will need to be low-impact. It’s important to start slowing and listen to your body. Before you even think about exercising, talk to your doctor and get a referral to a physical therapist. You’ll get a list of exercises that have shown benefits for those with arthritis or sore joints, without aggravating the situation or causing other health problems. You’ll also get tips to make the most of your training.