Benefits of Exercise for Strengthening Joints in Arthritis

Author : Dr. J V Srinivas 

Lead Consultant - Orthopedics & Joint Surgery, Aster RV Hospital 

Exercise is one of the best ways of living an overall healthy life. From strengthening muscles to reducing the risk of heart disease, exercise is the most doctor-advised formula for good health. For people with arthritis, stiff muscles and joint pain may make exercise a difficult concept, but it is also a highly beneficial tool in the treatment process.

As per the CDC, adults with arthritis should aim for at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity such as brisk walking or 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, like cycling at 10 mph or faster, or an equivalent combination.1

There can be numerous types of joint pain such as pain in the elbow joint, knee joint, hip, limbs, or more. Always consult the best orthopedic doctor in Bangalore before starting any exercise regime to ensure it is right for you.

Importance of Exercise in Arthritis Management

Low-impact activities such as walking, swimming, and cycling help increase joint flexibility, improve lubrication around the joints, and release endorphins, which are natural pain relievers. Regular physical activity helps strengthen and loosen the stiff muscles around the joints, a common arthritis complaint. Strengthening the surrounding muscle helps relieve pressure on the joint reducing pain and inflammation.

Exercise helps keep your weight in check. Obesity or extra weight further stresses the joints leading to worse arthritis symptoms. Aerobic exercises like brisk walking or swimming can reduce fat, improve cardiovascular health, and assist in maintaining a healthy weight. Combining these factors with a healthy diet can further yield results. Arthritis often causes joint pain due to stiffness. This can be particularly painful in the morning or after long periods of sitting. Incorporating a gentle stretching routine as part of your exercise such as yoga and other stretches can help relieve the stiffness and improve joint flexibility and mobility.

Chronic pain associated with arthritis can be upsetting leading to increased levels of stress, anxiety or even depression in people. The release of endorphins through exercise and increased movement can help improve your mood and boost happy hormones in the body thus supporting your mental well-being as well.

Recommended Exercises for Arthritis

Certain forms of exercise may be best avoided for people with arthritis such as high-intensity or jumping exercises. Be sure that you consult a doctor to know which form of exercise will help you the most. In general, some of the best exercises for joint pain include:

·         Stretching exercises such as yoga and tai chi gently ease stiff muscles without adding any external stressors. These also help improve the range of motion which is often compromised due to stiffness

·         Aerobic exercises boost cardiac health, maintain weight, and improve circulation. These include walking, jogging, and swimming etc. For absolute beginners, water aerobics may be a great solution as it is far gentler on the joints

·         Strength training with the help of light weights or resistance bands helps strengthen the muscles

·         Increased movement in daily activities such as climbing stairs, walking for a few minutes for every hour you sit, and more

Care Tips When Starting Out

When starting a new exercise, it is important to care for your joints and not push them too hard or too fast. Your healthcare provider will be able to customise an exercise regime for you based on the type of joint pain and your current mobility levels. Here are some tips to help you:

·         Minimise stress on your joints by sticking to gentle low-impact exercises

·         Start with smaller routines that are easier to follow and build up the length and intensity gradually with time

·         Always do a warm-up before beginning your workout to lubricate your joints and muscles

·         Don’t push through the pain. Instead, shift to an easier exercise and speak to your doctor about adjusting your routine

·         Use heat and cold packs before and after your workout to support your muscles and help you recover

·         Adjust your movement to your current range of motion. As you continue with your exercises you will be able to increase your mobility

·         Join an exercise program for people with arthritis that can customise a plan for you and offer timely guidance