If you suffer from arthritis, the simple joy of walking to the mailbox can be excruciating. We’ve previously discussed how diet and exercise helps people deal with some of the pain of arthritis, but starting out can be difficult. After all, your arthritis may make it more difficult to move around, which is exactly what exercise has you doing.

Why Exercise Is Important

First, let’s look at why exercise itself is such an important piece of the arthritis puzzle. Any level of exercise can benefit you in mind, body, and spirit, but for those with arthritis, it goes one step further. Losing weight, one of the most common reasons to exercise, has the added benefit of easing the strain on our joints. Regular exercise can also strengthen your muscles and even lessen your joint pain.

The opposite scenario is true as well. If you don’t exercise, you run the risk of gaining weight, weakening your muscles, and decreasing your pain tolerance. Yes, a lack of exercise can make your arthritis worse. For these reasons, talk to your doctor to see if you’re healthy enough for this series of low-impact/intensity workouts.

Aerobic Exercises

When it comes to low-impact exercises, aerobic workouts are tough to beat. They require little instruction, and you can do them almost anywhere. Unlike with guided workouts, you can also set your own pace when you go for a walk or swim.

Studies have shown that aerobic exercise can have a therapeutic effect on arthritis sufferers, with as little as three 15-minute sessions a week being helpful. One review of arthritis-exercise research shows that there is a growing body of evidence supporting the benefits of aerobic exercise for those with arthritis.

Studies have shown that aerobic exercise can have a therapeutic effect on arthritis sufferers, with as little as three 15-minute sessions a week being helpful.

What aerobic workouts are good for people with arthritis? Going for a regular walk or jog is effective, though it’s important you move at a moderate pace. If you don’t feel at least a little tired after your walk, you may need to push yourself a little harder. Up your pace a bit or try something new to optimize your walking. Swimming or water aerobics are great for people with arthritis since they are essentially no-impact exercises. Just be sure to avoid pushing yourself too hard and to work recovery days into your schedule.

Hand Exercises

One of the common areas of the body affected by arthritis is the hands. As stiffness and pain sets in, movement in your hands can become more difficult. To diminish some of the pain and keep your digital dexterity, you can strengthen the muscles in your hands by exercising them.

One of the advantages of hand exercises is that you can do them practically anywhere.

One of the advantages of hand exercises is that you can do them practically anywhere. Most are as simple as bending your fingers. For example, a simple exercise involves you straightening your fingers on one hand then slowly making a fist. Don’t squeeze too tightly, though. You just need to make a fist. Repeat this exercise ten times with one hand before switching to the other. This is only one example of a hand workout. There are many other simple hand and finger exercises you can do while sitting at home!

Yoga, Tai Chi and Pilates

Yoga, Pilates, and tai chi have been growing in popularity among seniors for some time, which completely makes sense. Yoga is the most well-known of the three and also the most studied. It’s terrific for seniors with arthritis because it combines low-impact exercise with flexibility-promoting movement. Seniors who take part in yoga can experience reduced inflammation, stronger muscles, less pain and stiffness, and improved balance. Perhaps this is why yoga classes for seniors have been sprouting up all over the country and on the internet!

Based off the teachings of an ancient Chinese martial arts, tai chi uses slow, graceful motion to calm and work out the body and mind. The deliberate, contemplative nature of tai chi makes it low impact, allowing for arthritis sufferers to burn calories without straining their muscles too much. One report mentions that seniors who do tai chi experience the benefits after a single hour! It’s probably better to follow an instructor if you want to do this form of exercise. As with yoga, the different forms and moves can be difficult to pick up without instruction. Luckily, you can follow instructions online, via platforms like YouTube, or at a local gym or YMCA.

Pilates, much like yoga and tai chi, utilizes low-impact movement to strengthen and stretch seniors’ muscles. The workout focuses on controlling motions related to the lower back, abdomen, thighs, knees, and rear. Studies show that Pilates could help seniors relieve pain, specifically in the lower back and legs. It can also improve joint function.

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While exercise cannot cure arthritis, you can alleviate many of the symptoms of joint inflammation with regular workouts. Remember, not all exercises are suitable for seniors with arthritis or joint pain. Check with your doctor to make sure you can handle your workouts before starting them. There are many reasons to exercise. If you suffer from joint pain caused by inflammation and arthritis, you just got another one!

Further Reading

Health.com — 16 Gentle Exercises for People with Arthritis
Arthritis Foundation — Arthritis-Friendly Exercise Videos
Arthritis Foundation — How to Exercise With Arthritis