Arthritis – Why exercise matters.

Those suffering from arthritis want and need to get back to the things that bring them joy. However, many are inactive by choice – fearing worsening symptoms upon movement. The opposite is true! Physical activity can alleviate symptoms of arthritis, and this blog will show why an activity is so vital.

This week’s topics include:

Why Exercise Matters

Customize Your Routine

Compression For Arthritis

It’s a given. We are made to move. Experts repeatedly encourage physical activity to increase our chances of living longer, healthier lives.

Why Exercise Matters

Exercise has positive effects on both physical and psychological health. However, few pain sufferers are aware of exercise’s effects that benefit symptoms specific to arthritic conditions. Exercise is considered the most effective, non-drug treatment for reducing pain and improving movement in patients.

Exercise brings general benefits like feeling more energetic and happier. Exercise does this by increasing the production of endorphins, which are known to help produce positive feelings and reduce the perception of pain. Studies show that anxiety levels are lower in individuals who exercise regularly compared with sedentary adults. Thus, exercise appears to be a potent stress reducer as well.

In addition to the psychological benefits of regular activity, let’s explore what exercise does for joints, bones, and muscles. 

Tennis player using compression. Why exercise matters.

Joints

Joints contain cartilage and ligaments. When ligaments are strong, they act as a brace to protect the joint and lessen pressure on weakened joints. Strengthening your ligaments will help increase overall body strength by giving bones and muscles a solid foundation from which to work. Cartilage is a flexible connective tissue that keeps joint motion fluid by coating the surfaces of the bones in our joints and by cushioning bones against impact. Exercise contributes to cartilage healing and reduces the risk of injury. The golden rule of joint health: The more you move, the less stiffness you’ll have. 

Bones

Keeping muscles and surrounding tissue strong is crucial to maintaining the support of bones. Like muscles, bones become stronger with exercise. Because bone is living tissue, it changes over time in response to the forces placed upon it. When you exercise regularly, your bone adapts by building more bone and becoming denser. Strong bones provide strength, balance, and support for your body. And they enable better posture to improve your appearance and make you look and feel more youthful.

Muscles

Since muscles help absorb the forces that impact joints, muscles that work well may protect joints from excessive wear and tear. Regular exercise promotes good muscle function. Any increase in muscle tone can help stabilize the body and support the skeletal system. Inactivity can lead to a cycle of more pain through tight, weak muscles and increased fatigue. Without regular activity, muscles will lose tone and slowly atrophy, creating more stress on your joints.

Other benefits of regular exercise are better sleep, improved ability to maintain healthy body weight, and increased energy. Exercise decreases health risks associated with a sedentary lifestyle.

Customize Your Routine

Once you decide to tackle your pain management head-on, an excellent first step is to meet with your doctor or physical therapist to discuss your current health as well as your goals. These professionals can help you create a personalized exercise routine and adjust as needed. Using the correct muscles during movement or activity is critical to prevent further wear and tear on the joint surface.

Exercise is for the entire body, not just the joints affected. However, targeted movements to preserve or restore range of motion and flexibility around the affected joints are also important. Working with a professional can help you learn how to activate the correct muscles. Find a physical therapist who has experience working with arthritic patients. Be honest about your capabilities. We’re all different. Discover what is best for you.

Experts recommend around 150 minutes of physical activity each week. You can split that time into 10-minute blocks if that’s easier on your joints. However, if that’s too much for you at first, start with shorter periods and work up. Ease yourself into a moderately consistent routine. Any form of exercise is better than no exercise.

Why exercise matters. Customize your routine.

Here are a few strategies to consider:

  • Warm-up your joints with a few dynamic movements or range-of-motion exercises. Also, consider heat packs or a warm shower before. Heat relaxes joints and muscles.
  • Low impact aerobic exercises like walking or bicycling (stationary or recumbent) work well. Or choose swimming if possible. Low impact exercises help keep joint stress low while you move.
  • As you broaden your routine, add weight training to build strength and increase mobility.
  • Stretch after a workout to prevent sore muscles and get rid of waste products.
  • Post-workout ice is typically recommended if there is increased swelling (~20 mins post-activity).

Coach’s sidebar: Icing is an optimal post-workout therapy, but for me, it has rarely offered relief. Warmth and stretching have served me better. Experiment and see what suits you. Learn to trust your instincts. Don’t do more than you think your joints can handle. Take it easy. Slowly increase your exercise time and intensity as you progress. If you feel sharp pain, stop. Listen to your body and check with your physician. 

arthritis - Why exercise matters.

Exercise routines don’t have to be overly strenuous. Don’t overexert yourself. Take a break when you need to or if you experience sharp pain or sharper pain than your usual joint pain. Just don’t give up on an exercise plan altogether. Accept that some days you will be able to do more than other days. Try changing up your workouts from time to time. These changes can offer you opportunities to improve your natural flexibility and make it more fun. Slow and consistent progress is the way. Your only competition is the person in your mirror. Keep up with your plan and track your progress.

Other tips:

  • Drink plenty of water and eat healthily. Avoid sugar and processed foods that increase inflammation.
  • Consider adding in relaxation activities like massages or mindfulness practices.
  • Ensure you have the proper equipment such as good walking shoes, medical grade compression, a yoga mat, appropriate hand weights, or anything your doctor prescribes.

Exercise can substantially impact your overall health, and it plays a crucial role in successfully managing arthritic conditions. With an engaging but manageable workout routine, you will see varied benefits, including reduced fatigue, lower levels of joint pain, and improved flexibility and strength. There are many exercise options no matter your body type, your condition, your pain level, or your financial situation. Remember, lack of exercise can make your joints even more painful and stiff. Move through it.

Compression For Arthritis

Having painful conditions can feel difficult and limiting. Controlling inflammation is a critical component of treatment. Compression sleeves are designed to reduce inflammation that accompanies stiffness while keeping joints comfortably warm. Compression increases blood flow. A leg sleeve is known to prevent cold feet, a common symptom of arthritic patients. Compression wear is offered in various styles (e.g., knee sleeves, ankle, elbow, wrist and more). 

Wearing compression sleeves throughout the day, especially during exercise, can help reduce swelling and make it easier to live with pain. As a noninvasive option, compression sleeves do not carry side effects and can be used whenever needed – unlike oral medications. Compression wraps are easy and practical choices for those undertaking conservative pain management.

Compression sends a message to the spinal cord and the brain, which causes the proper muscles to contract. This muscle contraction causes less wear on the cartilage and, therefore, less inflammation and swelling. Overall, this cycle can slow the degenerative process and keep you moving. The Body Helix Form-Fit Technology consists of comfortable, uniform medical-grade compression in the range of 20-30 millimeters of (mmHg), the optimal compression for increased blood flow and other benefits of compression.

Regular exercise can help you manage the challenges of arthritic conditions. In time, you’ll feel stronger and more mobile, allowing you to live life to the fullest. High-quality BodyHelix compression sleeves can provide relief and allow you to continue with the activities you love. Don’t let arthritis cramp your style. If you have any questions about choosing a suitable compression wrap for your needs, please get in touch with our team at Body Helix and Move Through It.

Learn. Share. Inspire.
Be well, my friends,

Coach Fred

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