Exercise Smart with Arthritis
By Mary Ann Wilson, RN
See a physician for a medical check-up before beginning any new exercise program. If you have rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis that is moderate to severe or joint pain with exercise, you should have professional and personalized advice from a physical therapist or other knowledgeable exercise specialist to establish a safe and effective exercise program for you.
1) Always warm up before you exercise. Walk in place or march while seated in your chair. Do some gentle stretches. If joints are particularly sore, you may warm them with mild heat.
2) Begin gradually today, and never overdo. You may have mild muscle discomfort when you first begin to exercise, but if an exercise causes joint pain, stop that exercise immediately. Use the 2-hour rule: If you have exercise-related discomfort for longer than 2 hours after your workout, you’ll need to cut back the intensity of your next exercise session, but don’t stop exercising altogether.
3) As a minimum, put every joint through its full range of motion at least once a day.
4) Vary the exercises you do, to work different muscle groups.
5) Start with as few as 3 – 4 repetitions of an exercise, and work up to 10 or more repetitions, as advised by your doctor, over a period of several weeks.
6) Avoid high tension exercises or sports activities that are jerky, such as jogging or racquetball.
7) Avoid weights unless you know they will not cause joint damage. Check with your doctor if you are unsure.
8) If using an exercise band, position it around the palm and back of your hand (not around your fingers) to protect the small finger joints. Keep your wrists straight.