The Importance of Exercise When You Have Arthritis

If the thought of jumping out of bed in the morning and going for a run leaves you cold, you have every reason to feel this way as an arthritis sufferer. In fact, we may have lost you at “jumping out of bed,” never mind running.

Treating arthritis is a medical quandary since the condition throws up a major hurdle to one of your best treatment options — exercise. Because arthritis causes inflammation in your joints, leaving them stiff and painful, your ability to engage in any physical activity is often compromised. The recommendation to exercise may seem like someone is asking you to eat a huge meal when you’re feeling nauseous. 

Here at Orthopaedics of Atlanta and Aesthetic Institute in Atlanta, Georgia, board-certified orthopaedic surgeon, Dr. Joseph Absi, understands this and works with you to overcome this hurdle in order to tap the amazing benefits that good exercise can provide. To help motivate you, we’ve pulled together a list of reasons why exercise is one of the best things you can do for your arthritis, along with a few tips to help get you started.

Range of motion

The two main types of arthritis, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, affect your joints in different ways, but the end result is usually the same: inflamed joints that are difficult, and even painful, to move. Unfortunately, the more you leave the joint immobile, the stiffer it will become. Like any piece of machinery, your joints are designed for movement and when left unused, they can quickly freeze up.

Muscle strength

Your joints don’t work alone and have many supporting players that help them do their jobs, especially your muscles. By incorporating some strength training into your daily routine, you’ll build up the muscles around your joints, taking the pressure off your joint. Think of it as delegating and spreading out some of your joint’s functions to other, highly-capable, systems that are more than up to the task.

Bone strength

While you may think of your bones as inanimate support structures, the fact is that the cells in your bones are constantly at work, regenerating to provide bone strength. If you’re inactive, however, your body interprets that to mean new bone cells are no longer needed and ceases to produce new, healthy cells. When you exercise, you send a signal to your body to continue its efforts to rebuild and strengthen bone.

Weight control

With arthritis, your joints are compromised, and any extra weight you carry is simply adding to an already considerable burden. With a good exercise regimen, you can keep extra pounds at bay and not tax your beleaguered joints any more than necessary.

Mental health

Studies have shown time and again that exercise helps with mood, anxiety, and overall mental wellness. If arthritis has you looking out at life from the sidelines, odds are you’re unhappy about it. By getting some exercise, you can get back to enjoying the activities you love.

Proper sleep

If you get a little exercise each day, your body will respond with better sleep at night. In fact, the whole cycle is beneficial from start to finish: Exercise during the day leads to restorative sleep at night when your body has a chance to repair and regenerate for the next day. Slowly, but surely, your body will become healthier as it travels through this cycle every 24 hours.

Getting started

If you’ve been inactive because of arthritis, start slowly with a few weights, some swimming or walking, and some stretching exercises. A combination of these exercises tackles the three areas you want to address: strength, aerobic health, and range of motion. 

If you used to be a very active person, be patient. And if you’re just starting out, be patient. Patience is key when it comes to arthritis — your goal is to push it to the limits, but rein it in before you cross the line and do more harm than good.

If you can, try a yoga class once or twice a week. Yoga delivers enormous benefits in terms of mobility, range of motion, and strengthening without overtaxing your joints.

To learn more about how exercise can help you gain the upper hand over your arthritis, contact our office in Meridian by calling 208-231-7851 or by sending us a message through our online contact form.

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