Osteoarthritis is a common degenerative condition caused by wear and tear to the cartilage in the joints. It most frequently affects the older population with worldwide estimates stating that about 9.6% of men and 18.0% of women aged over 60 years suffer from the condition.
About 80% of those affected will experience some limitation of movement. Sufferers will frequently give up activities that they had previously enjoyed, to adopt increasingly sedentary lifestyles. However with careful management, regular, gentle exercise can be extremely beneficial to Osteoarthritis sufferers.
Why does physical activity help?
If you have Osteoarthritis it is advisable to consider partaking in regular exercise. The Arthritis Foundation emphasizes the importance of remaining active for Osteoarthritis sufferers, indicating that short periods of regular exercise can help to strengthen bones and muscles, preventing muscle wasting and weakness caused by inactivity, whilst increasing flexibility and improving stamina. Keeping active is also important because it prevents weight gain, which can place added stress on the damaged joints. Regular exercise is also important for mental well-being as well as physical health.
Consult a Physician
Beginning an exercise regime can be worrying if you have Osteoarthritis. You may have concerns which are best addressed with the help of your healthcare provider, who can help you plan an exercise program which best suits your needs.
The best exercise for Osteoarthritis maintains fitness and keeps the body as supple as possible. However it should not place the joints under significant pressure. Some excellent choices include:
- Swimming – This is a very gentle form of cardiovascular exercise which is low-impact on the joints and can ease pain and stiffness. As such it is very popular with Osteoarthritis sufferers!
- Walking – This is one of the easiest forms of cardiovascular exercise to begin if you have not been active for some time and it is not too strenuous on the joints.
- Yoga and Stretching Exercises – Beginning your own daily stretching routine helps you to keep muscles and joints limber. Participating in Yoga classes can also be good for increasing flexibility and relieving mental stress.
- Remember not to overdo it. Aerobic activity should be performed in episodes of around 10 minutes and should be spread throughout the week. Do not be tempted to exercise for long periods at a time and do not ignore warning symptoms, such as flare ups of pain and swelling. If you experience these you should have a rest day or try a gentler form of exercise.
- Remember to increase your activity levels gradually.
- Always ensure that you warm-up adequately before exercising so as not to strain muscles.
- Depending on recommendation from your healthcare provider you may find that using an Elastic Support, such as those available through TalarMade, helps to stabilize and protect your joints whilst exercising.
- Applying a cold gel pack after exercise can help to cool swollen joints
- Make sure you have the correct equipment. For example, you should consider investing in some good quality walking shoes if you plan to take up walking as a hobby.