Exercise and arthritis
I’ve just been diagnosed with osteoarthritis. Some people have advised me to stop exercise; others to carry on. What do you recommend?
Most researchers conclude exercise can ease symptoms of arthritis, but will neither cure nor prevent it. However, many sufferers consider appropriate exercise beneficial for body and mind. People with arthritis are also at higher risk of several other chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis. Exercise can make a huge impact on these, too. So continue, but with caution.
Different arthritis conditions and degrees of flare-up require different approaches. With osteoarthritis the knee, hip, feet and finger joints are commonly affected; pain and stiffness can persist for long periods, leading to difficulty in everyday activities. Your exercise approach should address three aspects: preserve or restore the range of flexibility around each affected joint, increase muscle strength and endurance, and increase aerobic conditioning. Organise your exercise so you build a foundation based on improving joints’ range of motion and flexibility – loss of which results in a tightening of surrounding tendons, muscles and other tissues. Progressively add on muscle-strengthening aerobic exercise, and lastly recreational activity.
Acutely inflamed joints should be put through a gentle range of motion exercises several times a day. Overenthusiastic or improper stretching can harm a joint, especially if it is inflamed. Rest as needed to recover from exercise or during flare-ups, and if overweight try to lose excess pounds to reduce stress on joints.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010
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