Ride a Bike
Biking -- in a group or alone, outside or on a stationary bike -- builds stamina and balance with less impact on knees, hips, and other joints than walking or jogging. Recumbent and comfort bikes can provide relief for people who are uncomfortable on upright bikes. If you have a medical condition, check with your doctor before starting any new fitness program. Depending on your condition and health, some exercises may not be recommended.
Yoga is a gentle way to improve posture, balance, and coordination. Several early studies suggest yoga helps the physical functioning of people with arthritis and promotes relaxation. Look for a beginners' class and explain any physical limitations you have to the teacher. Once you're comfortable with the poses and breathing, you can also practice yoga at home.
Exercise in Water
Swimming, water walking, and other water-based exercises are ideal for relieving the pain and stiffness of arthritis. The resistance provided by water increases strength and range of motion, while its buoyancy supports the body's weight, reducing stress on joints. Water workouts can be as strenuous as swimming laps or as gentle as a game of tag in the shallow end.
Add Short Bursts of Activity
Physical activity in small amounts really adds up. Vacuuming or 10 minutes of pruning may be easier to incorporate into a busy day than an hour of exercise. Always try to use correct posture -- such as standing straight rather than stooping -- and let your larger joints handle as much of the work as possible. To track your activity, wear a pedometer and record how many steps you take each day.
Set a Goal
Commit to a greater level of training by signing up for a 5K walk, bike ride, or other organized event. Registering for an event increases your commitment and motivation to train. It may give you extra motivation to join events that support causes you may believe in, such as arthritis research. Be sure to give yourself enough time to train. Work backward from the event to set specific, realistic training goals.
Try Tai Chi
Studies suggest that tai chi, a traditional Chinese martial art, reduces pain and stiffness in many arthritis patients. Tai chi combines slow, gentle movements with a mental focus. It can be practiced in groups or alone. Participants in these studies also reported improved balance and lower levels of depression.
Maintain Sexual Intimacy
Pain from arthritis can affect every part of life, including sexuality. But a fulfilling sex life is possible. Plan for sexual activity during times when you feel rested, avoid cold temperatures, use pillows to support painful joints, and relax muscles and joints with massage. Communicate openly with your partner and strive for emotional and physical closeness.
Walk the Dog
Take your four-legged friend when you run errands on foot or head out for a lunchtime stroll. Walking the family pet around the block can deliver a low-impact, inexpensive workout. Walking can reduce stiffness, increase bone mass, increase energy, improve mood, and reduce anxiety. Try to accumulate at least 150 minutes a week. This could include 30 minutes of walking or any other moderate-intensity "lifestyle" activity, three to five days a week.
Take a Hike
At home or on vacation, hiking is an active way to explore the outdoors. Vary the trails you use, from short and strenuous to long and gentle. Activities like hiking are essential to managing the physical symptoms of arthritis, but they have other benefits, too. Exercise improves sleep and helps combat the stress and depression that can accompany arthritis.
Train for Strength
Strength training can protect and stabilize arthritic joints, improve functioning, and lessen pain. If joint movement is limited, isometric exercises that contract muscles without joint movement can be done. Aim for two or three sessions per week and build up repetitions and weight gradually. Check with an exercise specialist to make sure you are performing exercises correctly and safely.
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Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on Friday, October 10, 2014
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