My aunt has been bothered by arthritis for some time. She has been avoiding exercise lately and her weight has been increasing and making the situation worse. However, after consulting with doctor, she is doing brisk walking again. As arthritis has affected many elderly people, I decided to do some research and below write-up is what I have summarized:
What is Arthritis?
Arthritis is a broad term used to refer to different conditions that can cause joint pain. Osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are the most well-known.
- Osteoarthritis is a deterioration of cartilage and overgrowth of bone often due to “wear and tear”.
- Rheumatoid arthritis is the inflammation of a joint’s connective tissues, such as the synovial membranes, which leads to the destruction of the articular cartilage.
Why Exercise Even If You Have Arthritis?
Contrary to popular belief, exercise is likely to benefit the joints rather than harm them.
- Exercise increases strength and flexibility, reduces joint pain and helps combat fatigue. Of course, when stiff and painful joints are already bogging you down, the thought of walking around the block or swimming a few laps might make you hesitate.
- Joints are made to move. If a person rests a sore knee or hip or elbow day after day, the muscles that support the joint will slowly weaken. At the same time, the tendons that attach the muscle to the bone will become less elastic. All these add up to more pain and stiffness. Regular exercise will make muscles become stronger and the tendons become more limber. The pain and stiffness start to fade. Most people begin to notice improvements within two months, although some feel better almost immediately.
- Regular activity provides lifeblood to the cartilage that cushions joints. Unlike most tissues in the body, cartilage does not receive nutrients from the bloodstream. Instead, it gets its nourishment from fluid (called synovial fluid) in the joints. When a joint moves, the fluid sloshes around, giving the cartilage a healthy dose of oxygen and other vital substances. As an added bonus, regular exercise encourages the body to produce extra synovial fluid.
- Exercise also helps maintain bone strength and control your weight.
Why Many Arthritis Patients Not Exercise?
- Many think exercise will aggravate their joint pain and stiffness. Not exercising can make your joints even more painful and stiff. That is because keeping your muscles and surrounding tissue strong is crucial to maintaining support for your bones. Not exercising means your muscles will become weaker, making your bones more prone to breaking.
- Many do not exercise because of the unrealistic set of expectation. You do not need to run a marathon or swim the pace of an Olympic competitor to help reduce the symptoms of your arthritis. Even moderate exercise can improve your pain and help you maintain a healthy weight.
Before You Start Exercising
- As you consider starting an exercise program, understand what is within your limits and what level of exercise is likely to give you results. Remember that when arthritis threatens to immobilize you, exercise keeps you moving.
- I recommend you to talk to your doctor about how exercise can fit into your current treatment plan. What types of exercises are best for you depends on your type of arthritis and which joints are involved. Your doctor or a physical therapist can work with you to find the best exercise plan to give you the most benefit with the least aggravation of your joint pain.
In short, exercise can help you improve your health and fitness without hurting your joints.
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