It’s common knowledge that regular exercise has many health benefits, including helping our bodies stay strong and mobile. But did you know that exercise can also improve your joint health? Orthopedic experts have found that regular exercise not only decreases arthritis pain and stiffness, it also improves your strength and flexibility. Low-impact exercise can also reduce joint pain and even combats fatigue.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, a 2008 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study discovered that sedentary individuals with arthritis (rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis) who exercised twice a week for an hour experienced significant declines in pain and fatigue. The study participants also improved their ability to manage their arthritis.
Why Exercise for Joint Health?
Regular exercise is considered the most effective non-drug treatment for reducing pain and improving movement if you have osteoarthritis, also called OA. That’s because exercise has many benefits for people who experience joint pain, including:
- Lubricates the joints
- Strengthens muscles around your joints
- Boosts your bone strength
- Gives you more energy
- Reduces insomnia and sleep problems
- Controls your weight
- Improves balance
Your joints are surrounded by soft tissue known as the synovial membrane, which produces a substance called synovial fluid. This fluid allows your joints to function smoothly, and exercise actually helps increase the circulation of this fluid. Synovial fluid also provides important nutrients to the joints.
Ready, Set, Go!
With any exercise program, set small goals and stay consistent. Walking is an easy way to get started in an exercise program. The good news is you don’t have to walk long distances to experience results. First, check with your doctor to make sure you are in good health and don’t have health conditions that might prevent you from exercising regularly.
Try walking for ten minutes at first, and gradually increase the duration of your walks as you can tolerate it. Don’t make the mistake of walking a long distance on your first attempt. Slowly build up to a distance that feels right for you. As your stamina improves, you will naturally be able to walk longer distances. If you can only walk for 10 minutes, that is a great start. You can eventually build up to 3 ten-minute walks, which adds up to 30 minutes of exercise.
Remember to Stretch
Experts say that dynamic stretches are the best way to warm up before a workout. This type of stretching prepares the body for activity by helping to increase blood flow and muscle temperature. Never stretch a “cold” muscle – it is possible to strain or pull a muscle this way. Muscles that have been warmed up can stretch longer and handle more.
Choose Low-Impact Activities
Whether you choose to walk, swim, do water aerobics or try something new, find an activity that is low-impact and easy on your joints. Gentle yoga or tai chi can help you improve balance, prevent falls, improve your posture and help with stress relief. As with any type of exercise or workout class, talk to your instructor about your joint condition and don’t perform any movements or yoga poses that cause pain.
Although you might want to jump right into a vigorous workout routine, take the time to pace yourself. You don’t want to cause an overuse injury or strain your muscles or joints.
It’s normal to feel some soreness or pain after you exercise, especially if you haven't been active for a long time. In general, if you're feeling very sore for more than two hours after you exercise, you may have exercised too strenuously and may need to scale back the intensity of your workout. Slow and gentle movements are best at first. If you notice swelling or joint redness, take a break and listen to your body.
Contact Flexogenix for a Consultation
The joint experts at Flexogenix are here to help you maintain stronger, more flexible joints. We understand the important role that exercise plays in a healthy and active lifestyle. Contact us if you’re experiencing joint pain and want to discuss your treatment options.