Exercise and arthritis

pixAcross the country, more than 50 million people are living with doctor-diagnosed arthritis. So says the Arthritis Foundation, which projects that figure will rise to 67 million by the year 2030. Simply put, arthritis is a significant problem, one that can not only affect a person’s quality of life, but also his or her pocketbook, as the Arthritis Foundation notes that woking-age men and women (those between the ages of 18 and 64) who contend with arthritis are less likely to be employed than people of the same age who do not have arthritis. Arthritis is not only bad for employees, but also for employers, as it accounts for $156 billion annually in lost wages and medical expenses. Exercise may be the last thing on many arthritis sufferers’ minds, but exercise can play a vital role in reducing the often painful symptoms associated with arthritis. Among its other benefits, exercise can strengthen the muscles around arthritic joints and help men and women maintain bone strength. In addition, the Mayo Clinic notes that lack of exercise can make joints feel more painful and stiff, as a sedentary lifestyle will ultimately contribute to putting more stress on joints. Upon being diagnosed with arthritis, patients should speak with their physicians about the best way to use exercise to combat and relieve their symptoms. Some patients may require physical therapy, while others might be able to work with their physicians to develop an exercise regimen that can help reduce the severity of their symptoms and any pain that accompanies those symptoms.

The following are some types of exercises that figure to play a strong role in managing arthritis and improving quality of life.

• Aerobic exercises: Low-impact aerobic exercises, such as walking and swimming, can help arthritis sufferers alleviate their symptoms and improve their overall health. Arthritis sufferers who have not exercised in awhile because of their pain may have gained weight as a result, and aerobic exercise is a great way to shed extra pounds. Losing excess weight is a great way to make physical activity less taxing on your joints as well.

• Range-of-motion: Range-of-motion exercises are typically simple and don’t take much time, but when done correctly, such exercises can be very effective at relieving the stiffness associated with arthritis. A physician or physical therapist might advise you to do range-of-motion exercises each day, and you may even need to do them a few times each day. Adhere to this advice, continuing to perform the exercises as long as your doctor or physical therapists deems them necessary.

• Strength training: As previously noted, arthritis sufferers may feel as though lifting weights will only exacerbate their existing symptoms. But strength training will strengthen the muscles around the joints, providing more support for those joints and ultimately reducing symptoms of pain. Speak with your physician or physical therapist about appropriate strength-training activities and the importance of rest. If you experience any pain during strength-training sessions, stop immediately and report the pain to your physician.

More information about managing arthritis can be found at www.arthritis.org.