Exercise to Treat Arthritis
Why Should I Also Do Strengthening Exercises?
Strong muscles help keep weak joints stable and comfortable and protect them against further damage. A program of strengthening exercises that targets specific muscle groups can be helpful as part of your arthritis treatment.
There are several types of strengthening exercises that, when performed properly, can maintain or increase muscle tissue to support your muscles without aggravating your joints.
Some people with arthritis avoid exercise because of joint pain. However, a group of exercises called "isometrics" will help strengthen muscles without bending painful joints. Isometrics involve no joint movement but rather strengthen muscle groups by using an alternating series of isolated muscle flexes and periods of relaxation.
Isotonics is another group of exercises that involve joint mobility. However, this group of exercises is more intensive, achieving strength development through increased repetitions or by introducing increasing weight resistance such as with with small dumbbells or stretch bands.
A physical therapist or fitness instructor (preferably one who has experience working with people with arthritis) can tell you how to safely and effectively perform isometric and isotonic exercises.
What Is Hydrotherapy?
Hydrotherapy, also called "aqua therapy" (water therapy), is a program of exercises performed in a large pool. Aqua therapy may be easier on joints because the buoyancy of water takes some of the weight off the painful joints while providing resistance training.
What Are Endurance Exercises?
The foundation of endurance training is aerobic exercise, which includes any activity that increases the heart rate for a prolonged period of time. Aerobic activity conditions the heart and lungs to:
- Use oxygen to more efficiently supply the entire body with larger amounts of oxygen-rich blood
- Build stronger muscles for endurance activity
When paired with a healthy diet, aerobic activity also is fundamental for controlling weight (which is important for people with arthritis since it reduces excess pressure on affected joints) and for improving overall general health.
At first, people with arthritis should perform about 15 to 20 minutes of aerobic activity at least three times a week, and then gradually build up to 30 minutes daily. The activity also should include at least five to 10 minutes of warm-up plus five to 10 minutes of cool-down.