Best Forms of Exercise for Arthritis Sufferers
What do I know about arthritis? I am 35 with Rheumatoid Arthritis and I have found the single most helpful pain reliever is exercise. Having active arthritis symptoms, like pain and swelling, I have to be extremely careful. Whether you have osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid arthritis or the many forms in between, here is a comprehensive list of exercises that will enable you to keep moving, keep healthy, and even relieve symptoms.
Strengthen Your Core: Pilates
"Your back is your lifeline". I was a product of the 80's and 90's exercise video craze and that quote was something ingrained in me by Denise Austin. I still have a lot of respect for that woman who made fitness, health, and helping others her life. Now that I have arthritis, I suddenly remembered that quote again. If my back isn't healthy, then my body isn't. In addition to this, our back is only as strong as our abdominal muscles.
Pilates is a wonderful form of exercise for arthritis sufferers. Many of us have intense pain in our knees, hands, feet, wrists and other small joints so concentrating on the back and abdominal muscles is key. Pilates focuses on your "core", which is the muscles I just mentioned. In fact, Jospeh Pilates who invented Pilates, suffered from asthma so he began his journey with limitations just as we have with arthritis. This was invented to be a user-friendly exercise with many benefits:
- improved breathing
- better posture
- strengthen muscles
- stretch muscles
- fight fatigue
- improve flexibility
Yoga or Pilates? Yoga tends to be more uncomfortable because it focuses on holoding a pose, but Pilates flows in movement from exercise to exercise. The best form of Pilates is matwork exercises and many dvd's can be found to suit every level o fitness. My personal favorites I use are listed below.
The rebounder or mini trampoline is the best way, by far, to increase endorphins, work a little sweat, and maintain or increase cardiovascular endurance for people with arthritis. Walking doesn't always have an easy effect on arthritic joints, yes it's low impact, but if I walk long enough to work up a sweat, my feet are usually sore afterwards. That's why I recommend the rebounder and believe it is superior to walking.
The great thing about rebounders is there are many that will do the job, even in the $30 range or you can spend $200 on one with a stability bar available too. Whatever you choose, the health benefits are numerous. The most prominent one being increased lymphatic flow and circulation. For me, my morning joint stiffness is always lessened if I used my mini-trampoline the day before. The best way is to do a few minutes, rest, then do a few more- throughout the day for even better relief of arthritis symptoms.
I used to go to the gym and chuckle as I passed by the Tai Chi Class every Saturday- I peeked in and thought to myself "What a joke". That was before I had arthritis and now I know that maintaining balance, both physically and mentally, is crucial. Balance is important so we can avoid falls and injuries. Meditative breath in combination with the flow of body movements is calming and energizing simultaneously.
When arthritis takes over our body, we feel helpless, but Tai Chi showed me power using breath and flow of body movements and energy. When we think of boxing and Martial Arts, we think power and many practice Tai Chi for training. Tai Chi offers numerous benefits and, if you can, attending a class at least once is helpful. I had one one-on-one session with a personal trainer who specialized in Tai Chi and Qigong, and it was amazing.
Therapy, Medicine, and Fitness Balls
Many of these balls are in 9" size, capable of working themselves comfortably in joints. The other aspect especially for comfort is the ball is made of PVC plastic which is very durable and soft.
I would recommend a therapy ball that comes with a video and these balls can accompany your pilates routine as well. They are useful for stretching and warming up the joints, even in the morning. It's part massage, part stretching, and part fitness.
If You Can Walk, You Can Dance
Dancing is for everyone. I've seen 90 year olds dance- it may not be break-dancing or competitive ballroom dancing, but everyone can modify their style to their physical limitations. I've loved the art of dancing since I was a kid and when I got arthritis I thought I'd have to give it up because I wasn't capable of dancing the way I used to. I then watched a segment on a popular dance show that changed my mind about giving up on dancing. I included that video below; check it out and be prepared to get inspired to dance.
I've since modified my favorite forms of dance, like Ballet, Contemporary, and Belly Dancing and continue to shake my booty. No excuses and best of all dancing makes everyone feel young, happy, and unique- surely you have a wonderful unique style that you can try out in the privacy of your living room.
Brian Gaynor- disabled and dancing
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