Fitness tips to help with arthritis

Staying active and fit can minimize the impact your arthritis has on your life. But you do have to take some precautions. These fitness tips will help you stay healthy and active.

Fitness tips to help with arthritis

Be consistent

  • Always start exercises on the same side of the body.
  • Consistency makes keeping track of repetitions easier, especially when one repetition is completed only after both sides of the body have performed the movement.

Get a beat on pain

  • To make exercise more comfortable, try applying heat to painful joints or taking pain-relieving medications before you start. Be careful not to push yourself too hard during the workout.
  • Analgesics can mask "good" pain that would otherwise tell you to hold back.

Play with balloons

  • Challenge your grandchildren to a balloon-batting contest.
  • The team that keeps it off the ground longest gets the prize, but everybody is a winner because this is a terrific exercise for building strength and range of motion in all the muscles of the upper extremities from shoulders and arms to wrists and fingers.

Use the stairs

  • The familiar advice to take stairs instead of an elevator seems like a great way to build exercise into your day — if you don't work on the 14th floor.
  • But don't think "all or nothing." You can walk up to the second floor, catch the elevator there and ride the rest of the way. As you get stronger, take more flights and ride less.

Try two for one

Taking stairs two at a time doubles the exercise — you get the benefits of stair-climbing plus lunging. (And you may even beat the elevator.)

Walk, don’t slouch

  • You can enhance the benefits of walking by practising good posture as you stride. Hold your body so that shoulders and hips are aligned without arching your back.
  • Keep your elbows close to your body. Let arms swing freely forward and back in a straight line.

Try intervals

  • If walking seems too tame, but running is too hard on your joints, try a technique called interval training, in which you crank up the pace periodically — but only for short spurts.
  • Example: Walk at your normal pace for five minutes, then walk much faster for 30 seconds — then slow back down to your usual stride for another five minutes and repeat.
  • This sequence boosts intensity, but poses minimal risk of injury.

Grip the bike right

Grip the handlebars firmly enough to control the bike, but loosely enough to keep hand and arm muscles from being unnecessarily tense. Keep your elbows slightly bent.

Add music to your motion

  • Add a portable CD player or an iPod to your fitness gear and use it on your walks. Music has been shown to have a measurable impact on performance.
  • In one study, walking-program participants who listened to music on the road covered 21 per cent more distance after eight weeks than walkers who didn't tread to tunes.
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