If you've got aching joints and arthritis, exercise can help. It may be
hard to believe, but experts agree -- moving your joints helps relieve joint
"When you exercise, you strengthen the muscles around the joints, which
helps take stress off joints," says Richard Weil, MEd, CDE, WebMD's fitness
expert. "It also reduces joint stiffness and builds flexibility and
endurance." Exercise can improve your mood and self-esteem. It helps you
sleep better, keeps weight under control, and gives you more energy.
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There's also a certain sense of accomplishment that comes from exercise.
After all, pushing yourself to exercise - when your body hurts - isn't easy. In
addition to arthritis pain relief, exercise can offset other health problems,
like osteoporosis, diabetes, and heart disease.
If you're new at this, just remember - start slow, Weil advises.
Warm Up for Arthritis
Whether you have arthritis or not, a warm-up is a smart place to start.
Going into an exercise activity with cold muscles can only cause pain and
possibly injury. If you have arthritis, you may want to do something extra.
"A lot of people like to take a warm bath or apply heat packs to joints
before they do any exercise, to get the synovial [joint] fluid flowing ... it
lubricates the joint," Weil tells WebMD.
Movement itself can warm up muscles. If you're getting ready to swim or
walk, your warm-up can be a gentle swim or walk - just take it slow, says Weil.
Stretching is also good before any type of exercise: Do a few overhead
stretches. Bend to reach your toes (don't try to touch them).
Exercises for Arthritis
Weil suggests these warm-up exercises. Do three to five repetitions
Side bends: Put hands on hips. Bend from the waist on one
side, then come back up. Repeat on the other side.
Shoulder shrugs: Raise one or both shoulders up toward the
ears. Lower and repeat.
Arm circles: Extend arms out at both sides. Rotate arms
forward, then in reverse.
Torso rotations: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and
toes turned slightly out. Rotate to your left side. Then rotate to your right
Strengthening Exercises for Arthritis
Muscle strengthening can come from lifting hand weights, using flexible
tubing, even lifting a 1 liter water bottle, says Weil. Strengthening exercises
can also be done in a chair while you follow a hand-weight exercise video, he
To start a hand-weight program, use weights that you can lift 12 to 15 times
with good form. Make sure you feel comfortable using the weights.
Biceps curls: Start with elbows bent at the sides. Keeping
your upper arm at your side, bring one dumbbell up to your shoulder. Lower to
original position and repeat with opposite arm. Continue to alternate between