Dr. Arthritis Shares: The Best and Worst Exercises to Try When You Have Arthritis
Exercise–you know for a fact that it helps you manage your symptoms better, and it has lasting, long-term benefits for arthritis sufferers. So you try your best to stay active despite your symptoms. Unfortunately for us, when our joints are stiff, aching and painful, we’re pretty much limited to leisurely walks and gentle stretching. They’re fine and they work—but it can get a little repetitive and boring.
In the interest of staying active and keeping our joints healthy, we tend to be very eager to try new exercise routines and classes. A lot of us keep up with exercise trends as a way to keep our workouts interesting and give a more refreshing spin to our normal activities. But be careful, not all exercises are suited for our condition.
So we consulted with our medical team to check what the best and worst exercises are for arthritis sufferers—especially given the slew of trendy new exercises that keep popping up. Check out our list below–
HIIT or high-intensity interval training has gained a lot of attention for being one of the most effective exercise programs for weight loss. Weight loss, as we all know, is often a fitness goal for arthritis sufferers as maintaining our weight is ideal for alleviating pressure on our joints. The sessions are brief, usually just lasting 30 minutes or less, but only because it pushes you very hard until you’re so tired you can barely complete the last few sequences—which isn’t great for arthritis sufferers.
The workout requires you to alternate high-intensity activity with low-impact exercises. That’s the reason why it’s so effective for weight loss. But it can take a lot out of you and put a lot of sudden, intense pressure on your joints.
Barre workouts were designed to mimic the exercise routine and training of ballerinas. The movements are low-impact and were designed to develop long, lean muscles. Classes are usually held in a studio with mirrors, because it focuses on alignment and form.
This makes barre an ideal workout for many arthritis sufferers. Most of its movements can be tailored and adjusted to fit the limitations of inflamed or painful joints. Even the mirrors in the studio help arthritis sufferers with alignment issues adjust their form easier. The range of motion required is slow and steady, so it’s perfect for arthritic joints.
It’s easy to assume that hot yoga is a great exercise for arthritis sufferers. The room is hot which helps loosen up stiff joints, and it’s yoga, which involves stretching, for the most part. But hot yoga also involves a lot of instructor-led poses. While you can certainly adjust based on your flexibility, being in a heated room can make even healthy people feel woozy. Worse, if you also suffer from hypertension, the heat plus exertion can make your condition worse.
Spinning is generally a high intensity workout, but being seated means you’re putting less stress on your joints. Classes are also offered with varying degrees of intensity, so you can easily choose the one that’s more suited to your current condition. Be sure to pay attention to your joints. If it seems like your knees or hips can’t handle the stress of standing up on a bike, stay seated but keep on pedaling at your own pace. You can also adjust the tension of your machine as you see fit.
This exercise, also known as plyometrics, was specifically designed by athletes to boost performance. Typical exercises include jumps, shuttle runs, and burpees. While it’s normally offered following numerous levels to accommodate beginners and experts, the exercise program puts a lot of impact on joints. If you’re trying to keep your joints healthy, it might be best to skip this particular exercise trend and seek out alternatives.
CrossFit is intense—even for those who don’t have to worry about their joints. It combines a lot of high-impact activities such as jumping, weight-lifting, and running, just to name a few. The entire premise of CrossFit is anchored on your ability to execute exercises with stable joints and proper alignment. Most exercises also work to shorten muscles, whereas you want to develop yours to be longer and leaner if you suffer from arthritis.
There are a lot of dance-based fitness programs that you can easily modify to fit your capabilities. Zumba classes, belly dancing, Bollywood—these are all fun and refreshing ways to incorporate fitness into your daily routine with a lot of wiggle room to modify moves to accommodate symptoms. Be sure to start out at your own pace. No need to push yourself if your joints can’t handle it. The important thing is you’re actually incorporating activity into you lifestyle.