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Exercise can help ease the discomfort and tightness of arthritis
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Exercise can help ease the discomfort and tightness of arthritis

Those living with arthritis understand that it can cause pain and stiffness, but that doesn’t mean they should avoid activity.

If they can, arthritis patients should establish an exercise regimen because it can relieve their symptoms.

“Regular exercise is important for individuals suffering from arthritis because it helps manage their conditions,” said Brittany Price, fitness supervisor with Franciscan Health Fitness Centers.

Price said regular activity can improve strength and aerobic capacity or at least maintain those attributes.

“Therefore, minimizing functional decline and muscle wasting,” Price said. “Exercise may also help with joint stiffness and pain.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, exercise and other activities are simple and effective methods to relieve arthritis pain without medications.

“Regular physical activity can also reduce your risk of developing other chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes,” according to the CDC. “It can help you manage these conditions if you already have them.”

Shedding some pounds is another advantage to staying active.

“For people who are overweight or obese, losing weight reduces stress on joints, particularly weight bearing joints like the hips and knees,” according to the CDC. “In fact, losing as little as 10 to 12 pounds can improve pain and function for people with arthritis.”

Beth Perez, a personal trainer at MB TwinFit in Griffith, agrees regular exercise offers a variety of benefits to those with arthritis, including reducing inflammation of the joints while strengthening stability around the supporting muscles. She said arthritis patients can also increase flexibility and range of motion.

Perez said there are many types of exercises arthritis patients can try.

“Anyone suffering from pain and stiffness due to arthritis can benefit from low-impact exercises — those that minimize the amount of stress placed on the joints,” Perez said. “Walking and biking are great cardiovascular exercises to elevate the heart rate and get the body moving.”

Swimming and aquatic exercises are among other low-joint stress activities that can help manage pain and stiffness associated with arthritis, Price said.

“The water removes impact and creates a sense of weightlessness on the body,” Perez said.

Yoga, Pilates and tai chi can help people focus on mindfulness in addition to offering stress relief and flexibility benefits.

“Flexibility training would be of the upmost importance as it will enhance range of motion and prevent the negative effects of arthritis on joints when performed correctly and consistently,” Price said.

Body weight exercises, free weights, resistance training and machines also can be used to strengthen muscles, provide additional stability, reduce pain and improve physical function.

Exercising for those with arthritis shouldn’t be a one-time occurrence.

Price recommends arthritis patients exercise three to five days each week or do about 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each week for most benefit. 

“However, those in extreme amounts of pain and or are deconditioned should start any exercise routine slowly and gradually progress intensities to meet their needs,” Price said.

She also advises that when experiencing acute flare-ups, those living with arthritis should avoid high-intensity exercises.

Perez agrees with the benefits of regular exercise.

“Of course, it is always best to consult with your physician or medical professional prior to starting any workout program,” she said.

“Stay as active as your health allows and change your activity level depending on your arthritis symptoms,” the CDC recommends. “Some physical activity is better than none.”

Those living with arthritis understand that it can cause pain and stiffness, but that doesn’t mean they should avoid activity.

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