Exercise and arthritis
Your joints are stiff, swollen and achy. Sometimes it hurts when you stand, get up from a chair or climb stairs. Won’t exercise just aggravate these symptoms and make you feel worse?
In fact, it’s just the opposite. The idea that you should rest your joints when you have arthritis is outdated. Today, it’s clear that movement is good medicine for osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and many other types of rheumatic disease. There’s no reason not to be as physically active as your abilities and symptoms allow. Exercising at least 30 minutes on most days of the week is recommended.
You'll need to take certain steps to keep exercise safe for your joints such as talking to your doctor about what activities are right for you, modifying activity so that painful joints aren’t aggravated, easing into activities and learning to listen to your body for signs of over-doing it.
But with sensible precautions, being active has many benefits for people with arthritis. Regular physical activity can help to:
- Relieve pain and stiffness and increase energy — Studies show that moderate aerobic activity and strengthening exercises can reduce pain and morning stiffness. Exercise improves your balance, boosts your endurance and may also reduce inflammation.
- Protect bones and joints — Within a relatively short period of time, regular exercise can strengthen the muscles surrounding your joints. This helps stabilize weakened joints and increases flexibility. Stronger muscles may even help compensate for cartilage loss and can improve your range of motion. Over the long term, exercise can help slow bone loss that leads to osteoporosis — a condition that increases susceptibility to fractures.
- Control your weight — Combined with healthy food choices, regular exercise can help you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. Keeping off extra weight has many health benefits, and it’s important for your joints.
- Reduce or delay disability — Regular exercise helps you gain strength and agility that can improve your ability to work and do everyday activities, such as carrying grocery bags and climbing stairs. Keeping up better function helps you maintain your independence and quality of life.
- Improve mood — People with arthritis are at higher risk of anxiety and depression. Getting regular physical activity can help reduce these mood disorders, relieve stress and improve your overall well-being.
This post is excerpted from Mayo Clinic Guide to Arthritis, a just-published book from Mayo Clinic Press.
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I agree totally. I exercise every day using crunches, stretching, resistance bands, an elliptical trainer, and extensive walking. I am convinced that exercise pre-transplant helped me go into surgery with as much health as possible under a failing heart and exercise post-transplant has been a major part in my recovery. And I had to tell the new heart that there was a new sheriff in town. LOL As for pain, I will quote Mr. Spock of Star Trek: Pain is a thing of the mind.
I used to be very active,gym 3 times a week working as a Psych nurse with non ambulant patients full time which by the way has wrecked my back, and fast walking as many times a week as I could get in. After thumb surgery for osteoarthritis I lost 30% of my grip and it didn't go well on my dominant hand, I still get shooting pain.So all that has made it difficult to go to the gym. I have knee pain now although a knee sleeve does help but the arthritis in my back is the worse so my get up and go has got up and gone. Once I am out of the house I love to walk but my motivation has left me I find I will make excuses to myself to not leave the house. I'm going to be 67yrs old soon and I feel I am just sitting watching TV waiting to die. I should know better and as a retired Psych nurse I should practice what I used to preach about getting out and exercising but I just get get motivated. I think I need a live in trainer.Any advice ?
Motivation comes from within. No external source, no guilt, no membership, no community can replace your own determination. Please think outside of yourself and focus your health investment around those for whom your absence would be painful. And do not try to get back to what you were yesterday in one day. Have a reasonable goal in a reasonable timeframe. Make a plan and do one small thing everyday. And then change the plan to do just a little more. Assess your progress. Change your timeline if necessary but do not change the goal. You can get there tomorrow…just not today.
@anniebrook, that must be tough to accept that you have to listen to yourself, i.e., practice what you've preached to so many. But you counseled people well and know what is needed. I agree with @scottij that motivation comes from within. I would also add a strong dose of discipline. I find it really helpful to make a commitment to myself and stick to it. For me, this meant get up, get dressed and get out. No excuses. Instead of staying in my PJs in the morning, I get dressed in walking gear right away. I never set a specific distance or physical goal, I just got dressed and out the door.
Like you, once I was outside it was easy to go for a walk. Getting dressed right away put me in the right frame of mind for action rather than excuses. Over time, I added small things to my routine, like exercises and stretches. But the key was the discipline to develop the habit. Now I always move in the morning.
I'd love to hear back from you and what you saw on your walk. 🙂
@anniebrook Come join the virtual walking group in this discussion! https://connect.mayoclinic.org/discussion/lets-go-walking-join-me-for-a-virtual-walking-support-group/
Getting outside to get some fresh air can be invigorating, and reset your mind and emotions. I know it really helps me when there is a lot of pain. Not moving around, for me, makes it seem to double the discomfort. When I get out and walk, sometimes I am looking around, soaking in the environment. other times, my mind wrestles with different things. But the constant is moving and getting outside.
Glad your surgery went well. Do remember though that while pain is a thing of the mind, thousands of us have nerves that transmit messages to the mind so strong that we require implants or other treatments to live a meaningful life.
@missannie42, welcome to Mayo Clinic Connect. I see this is your first post and I'd like to get you connected. Do you live with arthritis? What condition causes your pain?
While I agree with all the posts here, it sounds like you may need a buddy to get you going. Is there someone you could start to walk with on a daily basis? If so, that is something to look forward to and a great motivator. You could also get an inexpensive clip on pedometer and aim to walk a certain amount of steps a day. Once you start taking these small practical steps it actually becomes so routine that you feel bad if you skip a day. It also leads to trying more activities.
It is easier not to change things which can lead to depression. But you sound like a smart introspective lady who already has the knowledge and this is what you would tell other people to do.
anniebrook, I encourage you to research the individtal benefits of boron, magnesium and vitamin K2MK4 which was previously called Activator-X. Then search on "boron osteoarthritis" "magnesium osteoarthritis" and "K2MK4 osteoarthritis" They work better together. Searching on 'krispin magnesium" reveals a helpful magnesium info site. Always consult with your healh care professional before using any supplement.
I was making an obvious poor attempt at humor. That said, nerves transmit messages to the brain. The mind is where we decide what to do with those messages. I took no pain meds after both heart surgeries, back surgery, emergency appendectomy, and various other medical procedures with the exception of the dentist. If the devil is real he must be a dentist.