This is one of the most asked questions when it comes to arthritis.
Exercise is an often neglected form of treatment. I consider it as important for an arthritis patient as medication.
The three types of exercise an arthritis patient should engage in are:
1. Low impact cardio (bike, swimming, elliptical trainer). Cardio helps with overall conditioning as well as increasing blood flow to joints.
2. Resistance (weights). Resistance training strengthens muscles that help support joints.
3. Stretching . Stretching prevents injury and keeps joints flexible. One very good form of stretching is yoga.
Exercise should be done on a daily basis. I know this runs counter to the idea that a day of rest is needed. The day of rest should be devoted to stretching.
Now these are general guidelines since some patients are much more into exercise than others. There are quite a few people with arthritis who are competitive athletes.
Bottom line: If you are relatively sedentary, you should start out very slowly and know your limits. Consultation with a physical therapist is a good idea.
If you already are an experienced athlete, then you will be able to design a program that incorporates the above three components.
As a rheumatologist who also has osteoarthritis, I exercise regularly but know what I can and cannot do. One last important point is to set some goals before you start. That will help keep you on track.
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