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ARTHRITIS AND EXERCISES

EXERCISE IN ARTHRITIS

A Balanced diet with a Balanced exercise is a Healthy life style”. Even people suffering from arthritis can exercise to maintain “ HEALTHY JOINTS”.

It was thought that arthritis patients should not exercise because it would further damage the joints. But research has confirmed that exercise plays an important role in the management of arthritis. Exercise is important for healthy joints. Moving and stretching joints daily helps keeping them fully mobile. Strengthening the surrounding muscles helps support the joints. Joint movement transports nutrients and waste products to and from the cartilage, the material which protects and cushions the ends of the bones.

It also helps promote overall health and fitness of the body by giving more energy, helping to sleep better, controlling body weight, decreasing depression, and giving more self-esteem. Some of these benefits are due to certain chemicals produced by the body- Endorphins-which are similar to Morphine which is used as a narcotic analgesic. It is said that prolonged and severe exercise can be addictive in the long run and that is attributed to these endorphins.Furthermore, exercise can help stave off other health problems such as osteoporosis and heart disease.

Starting an exercise program can seem like a daunting proposition. The important thing to remember is to start slow, do it at your own pace and listen to the body.

Types of Exercises for Arthritis:

Range-of-motion Exercises

Range-of-motion exercises are gentle stretching exercises that aim to move each joint through their normal maximum range of motion. These exercises need to be done daily to help keep joints fully mobile and prevent stiffness and deformities. Our ancient ‘Yogaasan & Suryanamaskar’ postures essentially are a form of ROM exercises. It is interesting to note that yogaasanas are not linked to production of endorphins.

Range-of-motion exercises are important for arthritis patients who -- because of intense or chronic pain -- shy away from moving their joints through their full range. Some people believe that normal daily activities take joints through their full range of motion but this is not the case. Normal daily activities, such as housework, dressing, bathing, and cooking are not a substitute for range-of-motion exercises.

Strengthening Exercises

Strengthening exercises help increase muscle strength. Strong muscles help support the joints -- making the joints more stable and helping you move more easily and with less pain. The two types of strengthening exercises are isometric and isotonic.

  • Isometric exercises involve tightening the muscles, without moving the joints. These exercises are especially useful when joint motion is impaired.
  • Isotonic exercises involve strengthening the muscles by moving the joints.

Endurance Exercises

Endurance exercises are physical activities that bring your heart rate up to your optimal target level for at least 20 to 30 minutes. Your target heart rate is computed based on age and physical condition. By raising the heart rate, endurance exercises improve cardiovascular fitness. Endurance exercises should be performed at least three times a week to build on their effectiveness. Many arthritis patients who regularly perform endurance exercises find they are able to increase physical strength, develop a better mental attitude and improve arthritis symptoms.

Not all arthritis patients are able to perform endurance exercises however. For example, patients with long-term rheumatoid arthritis who have severe joint damage and functional limitations may be unable to do this type of activity. Endurance exercises for arthritis patients need to be chosen carefully to avoid joint injury.

Exercise Choices

You can discuss exercise plans and goals with a doctor or a professional trainer before starting a routine or program. There may be exercises that are off-limits because they could cause injury or further joint damage, especially when joints are swollen and inflamed. The amount and form of exercise recommended for each individual will vary depending on the type and severity of arthritis, either the leg or upper limb joints involved, whether the joints are stable or not and in case if the patient had any previous joint surgeries. Do not forget patient may have other physical limitations.

Which Exercise?

We feel that a Balanced diet with Balanced exercise is Healthy life style. Like a balanced diet contains various food items with different tastes we should chose a balanced exercise programme mixing and trying different types of exercises each time. This is good for the body and avoids monotony for the person. Here are some exercise options that tend to work well for people with arthritis:

  • Walking can be an excellent exercise choice. Walking helps build strength and maintain joint flexibility, aids in bone health and reduces the risk of osteoporosis.
  • Yoga can provide pain relief, relax stiff muscles, and ease sore joints. With controlled movements, pressures, stretches and deep breathing relaxation, yoga can improve range of motion. Use caution when disease activity is flaring and avoid excess torque or pressure on the joints.
  • Warm water exercise is an excellent way to build up strength, ease stiff joints, and relax sore muscles. The water helps support the body while the joints are moved through their full range of motion. One does not need to know swimming to go in to the pool. Walking in the water with water up to waist is a very good exercise.
  • Cycling, both indoor and outdoor, may provide a good low impact exercise option. Cycling can be done outdoors or with a stationary one. Cycling equipment can be adjusted and adapted for many physical limitations.

Exercise Guidelines:

To obtain the maximum benefit from an exercise program:

  • Be consistent. Exercise should be performed daily or at least at regular intervals. In order to see results and obtain full benefits from exercise, it cannot be done sporadically.
  • Build up gradually. The best exercise program is one which begins at a low intensity and builds up gradually as symptoms permit. Too much exercise, especially initially, can worsen symptoms.
  • Exercise when symptoms are least distressing. The best time to exercise is when pain and stiffness are at a minimum. Some people with arthritis prefer exercising after morning stiffness subsides. Others dislike afternoon exercise sessions because they grow more tired as the day progresses. It is a matter of personal preference.
  • Do not overdo. Many strengthening and range-of-motion exercise programs suggest performing the exercises in sets of three to 10 repetitions, with each set repeated one to four times. No set number works for everyone. The number of repetitions is dependent on how well you feel. Too much activity, especially during a flare, can aggravate or worsen symptoms.
  • Listen to body signals. A certain amount of discomfort during exercise is acceptable and expected. If pain lasts two hours or more after exercise, the body is signaling that the exercise session was too strenuous. Fewer repetitions should be performed until symptoms subside.
  • If the joint feels hot, avoid exercise. Exercise can worsen swollen, tender, or warm joints. Modify your activity until arthritis symptoms are once again under control.
  • Set realistic goals. Begin the exercise program with reasonable goals and the determination to gradually increase over time. Too much, too soon can be harmful.
  • Smooth, steady rhythm. Exercising and breathing should be coordinated. Avoid bouncing or jerky motions which can add stress to joints. Exercise in a smooth, steady rhythm and relax between repetitions.
  • Alternate rest with activity. While activity is important in maintaining healthy joints, so is getting the appropriate amount of rest.

You can always discuss with a physiotherapist regarding the type and intensity of your exercise. A physiotherapist can help you develop an exercise program that fits your specific needs. You need to know proper techniques and precautions when performing certain types of exercises. You can discuss about how to perform daily activities without putting additional stress on your joints and can get advice on splints or assistive devices that can make working out more comfortable.

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