3 easy workout ideas to ease pain

October 9, 2015

Walking is a great way to stay fit, but some people experience pain that prevents them from walking for long periods of time. The following tips will help you reap the benefits of walking with less discomfort.

3 easy workout ideas to ease pain

1. Walking workout

Most people can start by walking 15 minutes, says physical medicine and rehabilitation physician Christine Keating, MD. It's the exercise she usually suggests for pain patients.

  1. If you can't manage it, try the following: start by walking five minutes on three days per week.
  2. The next week, walk six minutes for each of three days.
  3. Increase each week until you reach 20 minutes, then add a fourth day. Continue to build in that way until you are walking at least 30 minutes to an hour per day, five days per week.
  4. As your fitness improves, you can speed up, walking fast enough to increase your breathing and heart rate but slowly enough so that you can still have conversation. If you do not feel normal within 10 minutes after you stop, you're pushing too hard. Here are some ways to make walking painless.
  • Walk with a friend.
  • Listen to music while you walk.
  • Wear breathable, loose-fitting clothing and supportive walking shoes.
  • Pick a beautiful or fun spot, like a path around a lake that has benches, in case you get tired. In bad weather, opt for a shopping mall.
  • To protect your joints, walk on soft surfaces, such as a park trail or high school track.

2. Swimming strategies

Swimming can be especially helpful for people with joint pain. Because of the body's buoyancy, you're not thudding down on your bones. The lessened gravity also makes it easier to move with less pain. At the same time, the water provides enough resistance to strengthen muscles. Here are some tips:

  • Look for a heated pool. Water between 28° and 31°C (82° and 88°F) will help relax your muscles and ease your pain.
  • Start slowly. Swim using any stroke you find comfortable. Swim two or three times a week, working up to 15 to 20 minutes by the end of the first week, 25 to 30 minutes by the end of the second week. Gradually work up to 45 minutes to an hour.
  • Know when to pause. If you get tired, stop and relax in the water.
  • Work toward swimming faster. After your second week, begin to swim a little faster. Getting your heart working hard is key to triggering the release of pain-relieving endorphins.
  • Monitor your pain. If your pain gets worse or you feel new pain, slow down or stop.

3. Biking boost

Stationary bikes are perfect for people suffering back, joint, and arthritis pain. Biking builds muscle strength, keeps joints flexible, and reduces stiffness. It's also low impact, so it won't cause further pain to your joints. If you have joint or back pain, ask the gym manager whether an upright or recumbent bike would be better for you.

Recumbent bikes may be better for people with back pain. If you have knee pain and you're using an upright bike, make sure the seat is high enough that your knee doesn't bend past 90 degrees but not so high that your leg is straight at the bottom of a pedal stroke. If your hips rock when you pedal, lower the seat. To avoid putting undue strain on your knees, push from your heel, not your toe.

Physical medicine and rehab physician Christine Keating often suggests stationary bikes to patients who have trouble walking. As with walking, she suggests the following:

  • Start with five to 15 minutes three days per week.
  • Add one minute per day each week until you reach 20 minutes.
  • Add a fourth day.
  • Continue building the same way until you can bike for an hour five days per week.
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