Arthritis pain may make it hard to carry on everyday activities, but a low-impact exercise routine can relieve stiff, achy joints.
Here are your best activity choices:
Water walking and water aerobics. Walking in water reduces pressure on joints by 50 percent. Water aerobics involves exercising in chest-deep water; take a class or consult a physical therapist to learn proper form.
Swimming. Swimming works all muscle groups and builds cardiovascular endurance. Minimize your injury risk by learning to swim properly and choosing a comfortable swimming stroke.
Treadmill walking. Start slowly at 10 to 15 minutes at a time for three or more days per week for a week or two, then increase by five to 10 minutes per week. When you can comfortably walk 30 minutes on a flat surface, gradually increase the pace and/or add an incline. Do not raise the incline beyond five to ten percent, because that can add to joint stress.
Outdoor walking. Shock absorption is better on smooth dirt or grass trails versus paved surfaces. Be careful on uneven terrain or while walking downhill, which can aggravate hip, knee and feet joints.
Indoor or outdoor cycling. Cycling works all lower-body muscles. Adjust the bicycle seat so that your knee is slightly bent when it extends on the down pedal. Recumbent bikes can support the back while you extend your legs.
Elliptical workouts. Elliptical machines allow a fluid, circular motion, which reduces stress and strain on the lower body. Start with 10-minute sessions for the first few weeks, then increase by five to 10 minutes a week. Begin at the lowest resistance settings. Avoid the elliptical if you have balance or coordination impairment.
Pilates. Pilates stretches the spine and strengthens muscles. Try a session with a certified teacher or find a class that addresses arthritis issues. Always move within a pain-free range and work at your own pace.
Yoga. With proper form, yoga improves flexibility and strengthens muscles. In case of discomfort, modify the pose or enter a resting position.
Tai chi. Like yoga in motion, martial art improves balance and reduces arthritis pain. Wear comfortable, supportive shoes and modify moves for range-of-motion limitations, if necessary.
For more help dealing with arthritis pain, a physical rehabilitation specialist can customize a treatment plan for you. If arthritis doesn’t respond to such conservative therapy, orthopedic surgery can help.