Exercises to Prevent Disability Due to Arthritis

For those of us who suffer from some form of arthritis, the idea of exercising seems like a bad one. After all, our joints hurt, right? Why make them hurt even more with exercise? This seems logical, but…it's wrong. Counterintuitive as it seems, exercise is actually our friend. Moderate exercise for arthritis patients has been shown to help in the prevention of disability due to arthritis.

Defining Disability


Definitions of disability in terms of arthritis differ. Some tend to think of disability as the point where they can no longer function by themselves, or take care of themselves. Others define disability due to arthritis as difficulty going up and down stairs, difficulty walking, getting dressed, etc. While these issues exist, an arthritis patient with them doesn't usually consider himself disabled - the patient is still able to function, in the family, at work, in life. However you define disability, it is true that arthritis is a disabling disease, and the disabilities get worse as the disease progresses.

Exercise and Arthritis

As stated above, exercise is actually an arthritis patient's friend. Moving today may keep you able to move for many more days, with less pain and stiffness than before. The type of exercise is important, as is the quantity. Moderate to vigorous activity, as opposed to couch potato sedentary, will keep your joints moving more freely. If you use supplements, the exercise and the supplements together may mitigate your pain to a very low level, allowing you to move even more.

Types of Exercises


Both types of exercise - aerobic and strength-training-are recommended for arthritis patients. You don't have to break out your Jane Fonda videos to get aerobic exercise. Walking your dog around the neighborhood twice a day provides aerobic exercise, to your joints and your cardiovascular system. Lifting light weights three days a week will give you strength training benefits. You can find exercises tailored to your level of fitness; you may need to find a water aerobics class to start with, and progress to walks around the neighborhood, the dog notwithstanding. You may never reach the level of the Nautilus weights, but you can certainly lift a two or five pound dumbbell for thirty minutes a day, three days a week. The point is, you gotta move your joints to keep from becoming totally disabled.

Keep on Truckin'

From watching older adults with fibromyalgia, the lesson is indelibly clear: you can't stop moving. Once you stop, you will not be able to start again, and the vicious cycle continues until you are bedridden. This is true of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis as well. Once you stop using your joints, it's incredibly difficult, not to mention painful, to start using them again. Although exercise may be painful at times, it's the price an arthritis patient has to pay if they want to have a meaningful life, as opposed to a disabled, painful one instead. Find a way to prevent joint pain and keep your joints active; it will result in less overall pain, and it will reward you with the ability to keep moving through your life.

The Arthritis Handbook: Improve Your Health and Manage the Pain of Osteoarthritis (A DiaMedica Guide to Optimum Wellness)
Feinglass, J. Arthritis & Rheumatism, Dec. 15, 2005; vol 53: pp 879-885. Reuters.
Chapter G5 of the Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee Final Report External Web Site Icon

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