While it may seem counter-intuitive, exercising is integral for people that suffer from arthritis. When your joints are sore and aching, exercise may not seem like the best idea, but it can actually help increase strength and flexibility. While arthritis may often make you feel immobile, getting moving is actually the only real way to stop it from actually doing so. One of the most important things to remember is that you must choose exercises that are appropriate for your fitness and mobility levels. Luckily, you don’t have to run a marathon and swim 40 laps to reap the benefits of exercise for arthritis pain.
How Exercise can Help
Even for those that don’t suffer from arthritis, lack of motion can make your joints stiff, leading to pain when you finally put them to use. Making sure to move the joints that cause you pain can make a huge difference. Working out strengthens the muscles and tissues that surround each joint, as well as helps to maintain bone strength. Exercising makes your muscles stronger, allowing them to pull more of their own weight as you move, putting less stress on your joints. Sticking to a fitness routine will also help you keep your body weight in check. Even more, exercising will improve your balance, decreasing the amount of jerky movements that can hurt your aching joints.
Gentle Exercises that can Make a Difference
It’s important to choose a fitness routine that won’t further injure your joints. Luckily, there are a ton of gentle exercises that can make a huge difference in your pain level and improve your overall quality of life. Low-impact exercises have become more popular in recent years, such as yoga and pilates. Here are some of the best low-impact exercises you can do at home that will help ease your arthritis pain.
- Get down onto your hands and knees. Feel free to put pillows beneath your knees if the floor is too hard, or seek out a softer surface to kneel on. Trying to keep your back flat, lift your leg out behind you, bending at the knee and keeping your toe pointed. Then bring the leg back down to the starting position. Repeat on both legs. This exercise helps to strengthen your hamstrings, glutes, back, and core. Core health is important, as it helps to tighten up your entire body and maintain good posture.
- While you’re on your hands and knees, try this next position. Slowly bring your knee towards your chin, rounding your back. Hold for a moment and then return to the original position. This is a fantastic stretch for your back, that will help shake off any stiffness and keep muscles limber.
- Here’s a classic move — the bicycle crunch. For this move, lie on your back with your hands behind your head. Then lift your upper body and crunch your abs, performing a bicycle motion with your legs. Don’t go too fast if your knees are sore, but try your best to do as many as possible, as the joint will become more lubricated as you go.
- Lie flat on your back, keeping your legs straight in front of you. Lift one leg upwards, slowly bending your knee as you bring it towards your head. Lift it high until you start to feel tension in your muscles. Hold the pose for a second and then bring the leg down. Repeat on both legs. This move, while simple, is incredibly effective. By stretching out your legs and knees, you’re opening up your hips and range of motion, as well as stretching out your hamstrings.
- For this one, simple stand up straight and lift your leg, bending at the knee. Try to touch your chest with your knee. Repeat on both legs. This is a great low-impact cardio move that doesn’t involve running or jumping.
- Toe touches are another classic move. Stand up straight with your arms at your sides and your legs slightly spread. Bend at the waist and try to touch your left toe with your right hand. Slowly come back up and repeat on the other side, trying to touch your right foot with your left hand. It’s okay if you can’t reach all the way to your toe — the movement of making that stretch is enough for you to reap the benefits.
- For this move, you’ll want to lie down on a flat surface on your side with your legs together. Bend your knee and then lift the leg on top as high as you can, opening up like a clamshell, then put it back down. Repeat the action on the opposite side by laying on your other side.
- This move is a slightly more difficult version of the first move on our list. While on your hands and knees, lift your right leg out behind you, toes pointed. At the same time, lift your left arm straight in front of you. Hold the pose for 5-7 seconds and then return to the starting position. Repeat with your right arm and left leg. This move not only strengthens your body, but also improves your balance.
- Flip over onto your stomach. While laying flat, lift your right leg and left arm. Hold for 5-7 seconds and then repeat with the opposite arms. Like the previous move, this exercise is great for improving balance and flexibility. Since you’re holding your limbs up with your core, it also improves core strength.
- Finish up with this gentle stretch. Put your arms up and bend your elbows, locking them behind your head. Pull the “lock” further from your neck until you feel the pull in your muscle. Hold for a few seconds before releasing.
To learn more about maintaining joint mobility and relieving arthritis pain, contact Focus Physiotherapy.