- Dr. Jason Bloom, DPT, CSCS
How To Stay Active With Arthritis
Arthritis is an inflammatory process that attacks the joints of the body. There are many different types of arthritis, some more severe than others, but most of the forms have a few symptoms in common including: joint pain, swelling and stiffness. Arthritis can be very painful and debilitating, and can cause simple movements to feel like daunting tasks, but one of the best things that you can do for arthritis is EXERCISE. When many people hear exercise, they tend to think of running or lifting weights, but there are several forms of low impact exercise, that are great for dealing with arthritis, as well as good for your overall health.
Yoga is a great exercise for people of all ages and body types. If you are a beginner to yoga, you may look for classes in Hatha, Yin, or Restorative yoga, all of which focus on holding gentle stretching and balancing postures as well as breathing and mindfulness. If you want more of a challenge, you can try some of the more difficult (or athletic) yoga classes, such as Ashtanga or Bikram (room temperature set to 105 degrees). There are also many chair yoga classes if you are unable to get down onto a yoga mat.
Pilates is another form of low impact exercise that focuses on flexibility and strengthening. It also has strong focus on core strengthening and spinal alignment through exercise. Similar to yoga, Pilates has many different forms, including mat classes, reformer, and chair classes. Mat classes are on a padded mat on the floor, the reformer and chair are apparatuses that use springs for resistance or assistance (see photos below).
Aquatic exercise has many benefits, especially for those with arthritic issues. When you are in water, your submerged body parts (the parts under water) are under hydrostatic pressure, which can help with joint pain and inflammation. The warmth of the water increases blood flow and joint mobility, also decre
asing pain. One of the best aspects of aquatic exercise is that there is no risk of falling.
Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese practice that focuses on weight shifting, balance, and breathing. It is a gentle form of exercise that can improve your mobility, strength, and stability.
All of the above exercises can be very beneficial for people with arthritic conditions, but if you are unsure about where to start, or whether the exercise is appropriate for you, you can consult your Physical Therapist. Your Physical Therapist may not only be able to assist with your pain and mobility issues, but they can refer you to appropriate forms of exercise, and recommend where to find the classes/instructors.