Exercise Tips for Adults with Arthritis

    This July, the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) released updated recommendations for physical activity for those with inflammatory arthritis and osteoarthritis. A spokesperson for the CDC here in the US indicated that their updated results will be similar when released later this year. The big take away from the report; physical activity for those with arthritis is encouraged and has been shown to be beneficial. 

    People with inflammatory arthritis and osteoarthritis are often reluctant to engage in physical activity fearing a flare up of symptoms or further joint damage by exercising. "Given the evidence for its effectiveness, feasibility and safety, physical activity is advocated as [an] integral part of standard care throughout the course of these diseases,” says Anne-Kathrin Rausch Osthoff, MSc, from the Institute of Physiotherapy at Zurich University of Applied Sciences in Winterthur, Switzerland. 

    The EULAR based their recommendations on data from 11 studies that showed: 

  1. Cardiovascular exercises provided “a moderate beneficial effect on cardiovascular fitness for those with rheumatoid arthritis, spondyloarthritis, and osteoarthritis.”
  2. Strength training exercises provided “a moderate benefit” for those with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. 
  3. There were “no detrimental effects reported,” and in fact, data showed beneficial effects on disease activity and symptoms. 

    If you are adult with arthritis, it’s critical to understand that exercise is safe, recommended, and if done properly, can positively effect the disease and reduce your symptoms. Ready to get started? Follow our 6 tips for exercising safely with arthritis.

Tip #1: Seek out Professional Advice    

    This is our number one piece of advice because if the dosage of physical activity is incorrect, the exercise selection is incorrect, or the exercise is performed incorrectly, it’s true that symptoms will flare up, further joint damage may occur, and the disease may become worse. Patients with arthritis have a legitimate reason to be concerned when performing physical activity, but the good news is this can easily be avoided by seeking the advice of a well educated personal trainer. Look for someone who has an understanding of the disease and is well versed in biomechanics and anatomy. Most importantly, seek out someone who can perform a thorough assessment and then use this information to tailor exercise selection and dosage to your specific goals and health issues. This person should also teach you how to properly perform every exercise and educate you on signs to look for to avoid a flare up

Tip #2: Consistency is Key

    Exercise is only as good as the consistency with which it is performed. When performed regularly, exercise has been shown to help control weight, decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, strengthen your bones and muscles, improve your mental health and mood, prevent falls, and more!!  For those with arthritis, consistent exercise can improve your ability to manage pain and perform daily activities. If you want to reap these health benefits from physical activity, you must make it a habit. The best way to stay consistent is to schedule your exercise. Put it on your calendar and make it a priority. Because honestly, what’s more important than your health?

Tip #3: Move More

    While hitting the gym or attending an exercise class are a great way to get in your exercise, this does not mean it’s a free pass to sit around the rest of the day. It’s critical to keep moving throughout your day. We recommend setting a timer, getting up and moving for 5 minutes out of every hour. Park far away from the store or take the stairs to get in more movement. All this movement during the day not only helps keep the joints healthy, but has been shown to help regulate blood sugar, improve mood, and boost brain activity. 

Tip #4: Lift weights at least 2 times/week

    According to the American College of Sports Medicine, the American Heart Association, the EULAR, and the CDC, adults with arthritis should engage in resistance training at least 2 days a week. Hitting the gym can improve bone density and strengthen muscles. When muscles that surround a joint are working properly, a joint does not experience as much wear and tear which can prevent further degradation, aka arthritis. Resistance training has also been shown to help improve balance which is key to preventing falls. 

Tip #5: Include moderate and/or intense cardiovascular exercise

    Moderate intensity aerobic physical activity should be performed for a minimum of 30 minutes, 5 days a week.  This could include walking, swimming, or biking at a moderate pace.  Vigorous intensity aerobic activity may be performed for a minimum of 20 minutes on 3 days a week. A combination of moderate and vigorous aerobic activity would be ideal to reap the health benefits.

Tip #6: Book a Muscle Activation Techniques session

    The goal of MAT is to address and correct poor performing muscles. When all the muscles around a joint are not functioning at their best, this results in abnormal wear and tear on the joint which directly leads to arthritis. MAT identifies which muscles are functioning poorly, then corrects this imbalance around the joint allowing the joint to move in it’s ideal situation.  This results in less wear and tear and fewer arthritic symptoms and flare ups. You can find an MAT Specialist in your area by visiting www.muscleactivation.com