Physical activity and arthritis. Why, how and what?

If you have arthritis, participating in joint-friendly physical activity can improve your pain, function, mood, and quality of life.

Joint-friendly physical activities are low-impact, which means they put less stress on the body, reducing the risk of injury. Examples of joint-friendly activities include walking, cycling and swimming. Being physically active can also delay the onset of arthritis-related disability and help people with arthritis manage other chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

Stay as active as your health allows and change your activity level depending on your symptoms of arthritis. Some physical activity is better than none at all.
Learn how you can safely exercise and enjoy the benefits of increased physical activity with these S.M.A.R.T. tips.

▪ Start low, go slow.
▪ Modify activity when arthritic symptoms increase; try to stay active.
▪ Activities should be “joint-friendly”.
▪ Recognise safe places and ways to be active.
▪ Talk to a health professional.

Start low, and go slow
When starting or increasing physical activity, start slow and pay attention to how your body tolerates it. People with arthritis may take more time for their body to adjust to a new level of activity. If you are not active, start with a short period of activity, for example, 3 to 5 minutes two times a day. Increase activity a little at a time (such as 10 minutes at a time) and allow enough time for your body to adjust to the new level before increasing your time level.

Modify activity when arthritis symptoms increase; try to stay active
Arthritic symptoms, such as pain, stiffness, and fatigue, may come and go and you may have good days and bad days. Try to modify your activity to stay as active as possible without worsening your symptoms.

Activities should be “joint-friendly”
Choose activities that are easy on the joints such as walking, cycling, water aerobics, or dancing. These activities have a low-risk injury and do not twist or “pound” the joints too much.

Recognise safe places and ways to be active
Safety is important when beginning and maintaining an activity plan. If you are currently inactive or you are not sure how to start your own physical activity programme, an exercise class may be a good option. If you plan and direct your own activity, find safe places to be active. For example, walk in an area where the sidewalks or pathways are level and obstruction free, are well-lit, and are away from heavy traffic.

Talk to a physiotherapist
They can answer your questions about how much and what type of activity are more appropriate to match your abilities and health goals.

Low-impact aerobic exercises do not put stress on the joints. These include brisk walking, cycling, swimming, water aerobics, light gardening, group exercise classes, and dancing.

For major health benefits, do at least:
▪ 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as cycling at a speed lower than 10 miles per hour, or
▪ 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, such as cycling at 10 mph or faster, each week. Another option is to do a combination of both. A rule of thumb is that 1 minute vigorous-intensity activity is about the same as 2 minutes of moderate-intensity activity.

In addition to aerobic activity, you should also do muscle-strengthening activities (include lifting weights, resistance bands or yoga) that involve all major muscle groups two or more days a week, flexibility exercises (such as stretching and yoga) and balance exercises (such as walking backwards, standing on one foot or tai chi).

It’s normal to have some pain, stiffness, and swelling after starting a new physical activity programme. It may take 6 to 8 weeks for your joints to get used to your new level of activity, but sticking to your activity programme will result in long-term pain relief.

Here are some tips to help you manage pain during and after physical activity so you can keep exercising:
▪ Until your pain improves, modify your physical activity programme by exercising less frequently (fewer days per week) or for shorter periods of time (less time each session).
▪ Try a different type of exercise that puts less pressure on the joints – for example, switch from walking to water aerobics.
▪ Exercise at a comfortable pace – you should be able to carry on a conversation while exercising.
▪ Make sure you have good fitting, comfortable shoes.

Article submitted by the
HPA Health Group