A. There are a lot of factors to consider before starting an exercise program, such as your current physical condition (ex. very active or very sedentary), your past fitness history (played sports in college, ran marathons, or have never exercised), the type of arthritis you have, as well as the degree of progression (mild or severe). That being said, gentle exercise is extremely beneficial for all types of arthritis (provided you have your doctor’s approval); exercise keeps the joints moving, the muscles around the joints resilient, the bone and cartilage tissue strong and healthy, and improves your ability to perform every day activities.
As long as you continue with your medications and allow for proper rest, exercise will improve daily function and can help prevent additional joint damage. Not exercising can actually exacerbate joint stiffness and pain; you must strive to keep your muscles as strong as possible so that they will be better able to support and strengthen all of the joints- especially the weaker joints that have been damaged from arthritis.
Because people are so different, it is difficult to say which particular exercises are best for everyone. The aforementioned factors need to be addressed prior to a proper exercise regimen being recommended. It is known that most people suffering from arthritis tend to benefit from range-of-motion-type exercises (like Pilates), strengthening exercises (like weight training), and endurance exercises (such as cardiovascular activities).
Range-of-motion movements reduce stiffness and are responsible for promoting joint flexibility; some examples include the wall roll down (a great Pilates stretch for the hamstrings and spine), the Mermaid, and imprinting and releasing the lower spine.
Strength training will either maintain or increase muscle strength, while endurance exercises will strengthen the heart and produce stamina (so that you can last longer and don’t tire as quickly during your workouts). Some recommended activities are: walking, riding a stationary bicycle, and water activities. After obtaining your physician’s approval, your next step should be finding a knowledgeable trainer who can safely guide you in the right direction.
Crystal Manjarres is the owner of One-On-One Fitness, a private personal training and Pilates studio on Marco Island. She is a certified personal trainer and Stott Pilates certified instructor. Her focus is “Empowering men and women of all shapes and sizes”. To send in a question, email Crystal@101Fit.com. She can also be reached at www.101FIT.com and 239- 333-5771.