Exercise is the key to good quality of life in individuals with arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis Exercise

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Arthritis affects more than 350 million people globally. It starts with inflammation, progressing into joint pain, stiffness, and swelling, making it challenging to perform regular activities. It affects people across the age, and women are more susceptible to this condition. There are different types of arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis, spondyloarthropathy, osteoarthritis, etc. In all types of arthritis, maintaining healthy bones becomes crucial, as the ongoing disease as well as age can lead to osteoporosis and fractures. There are diverse ways to fight and improve bone and muscle health, and exercise can play a significant role in keeping the bones healthy. 

Often, patients with arthritis have a false notion that rest is the key to recovery. Exercise helps to increase the strength and flexibility of bones and muscles in arthritis patients and improve the overall mobility, despite the challenges posed by arthritis. Maintaining an active lifestyle can help to reduce pain and alleviate symptoms, leading to an enhanced quality of life. However, it is essential to exercise with caution to avoid overstressing the joints, which could potentially result in bone fractures. Seeking guidance from healthcare professionals before initiating an exercise program is highly recommended. They can provide valuable advice on appropriate exercises, intensity levels, and techniques tailored to individual needs and limitations. 

Benefits of exercise 

Engaging in regular exercise offers a multitude of benefits for individuals with arthritis including: 

Increased joint flexibility:  Regular and gentle exercise such as stretching and range of motion can improve flexibility and reduce stiffness, thus enhancing overall mobility. 

Enhance muscle strength and pain relief:  Exercise helps in strengthening the muscle surrounding the affected joints and can alleviate stress on the joints, leading to improved functionality, support, and stability. 

Weight management: Exercise plays a pivotal role in weight management, as maintaining healthy weight-bearing joints like the hip and knees are important for an arthritic person. 

Improves bone density: Certain weight-bearing exercises such as walking, jogging, dancing, and weightlifting help in improving bone density, thereby reducing the risk of osteoporosis. By subjecting the bones to controlled impact and stress, these exercises promote bone remodeling and strengthen the skeletal system. 

Promotes cardiovascular health: Regular physical activity can improve heart health, increase endurance, and lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases. 

Improves mental health and overall well-being. It can help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, boost mood, and enhance cognitive function. Engaging in physical activity can provide a sense of accomplishment, improve self-esteem, and contribute to a more positive outlook on life. 

Exercise recommendations 

To maintain arthritis and healthy bones, it is important to strike a balance between engaging in physical activity and avoiding excessive strain on the joints. It is recommended to start slowly and gradually increase the intensity and duration of activities that strengthen the bones. 

Some exercise recommendations are given below: 

Low-impact exercises: Activities such as walking, cycling, swimming, and water aerobics are gentle on the joints while providing cardiovascular benefits. Including moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week for at least 150 minutes is recommended. Swimming can provide flexibility and reduce stress on joints. 

Strength training: Incorporating strength training exercise improves muscle strength and joint stability. Equipment like resistance bands (e.g., exercise bands, tube bands, loop bands) or light weights can be used to target major muscles. It is important to avoid excessive strain on the joints while exercising to prevent fractures and osteoporosis. 

Flexibility exercise: Regularly performing stretching exercises can enhance joint flexibility and range of motion. Balance and posture exercises, such as yoga and Tai Chi, help improve balance, posture, and coordination of muscles and bones. 

Safety to be considered while exercising:  

Exercise is generally safe for individuals of all abilities, including those with arthritis. However, it is important to consider certain safety precautions and commonly followed safety guidelines are listed below: 

Start slowly: Begin with low-intensity exercise and gradually increase durations and intensity as the body adapts.  

Listen to your body: It is always important to listen to the body signals and not to stress or pressurize. If experiencing any discomfort or pain during exercise, modify the activity and consult a healthcare professional for further guidance. 

Warm-up and cool-down: Prior to starting the exercise routine, it is important to warm up the muscles with gentle stretches and movements. Initially, there might be mild soreness or pain during warm-up, but this tends to reduce with regular exercise. Similarly, incorporating a cool-down period after exercise helps the body gradually return to its resting state. 

Protect the joints: Use braces or splints if the healthcare professional recommends providing support and stability to affected joints. These assistive devices can help alleviate discomfort and reduce the risk of injury. In addition, they may be beneficial in reducing foot pain and improving your ability to walk. 

Seek professional guidance: Physical therapists or exercise specialist can help develop customized exercise programs tailored to the patient’s specific condition and needs. They assess the patient’s abilities, mobility limitations, and joint health to design a safe and effective exercise regimen. 

Certainly, understanding how exercise can benefit is just the beginning. Exercise and joint pain can coexist with the right approach. Listening to the body and modifying the exercise routine based on the pain severity is crucial for preventing further injury and promoting healing. Regular exercise with proper joint care can lead to a healthier and more fulfilling life. 

                          The pain you feel today will be the strength you feel tomorrow. -  Arnold Schwarzenegger