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Exercises Can Ease Arthritis Pain

With exercise, you strengthen muscles, reduce stiffness, improve flexibility, and boost your mood and self-esteem.

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 says.

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 sides.

Triceps extensions: Use both hands to hold weight overhead. Keeping your elbows pointed upward, lower the weight behind your head. (Make sure you don't hit the back of your neck.) Raise weight overhead again. Return and repeat.

Side lateral raises: With arms down at your sides, raise arms (slightly bent) to shoulder height. Lower and repeat.

Wall push-up: This exercise is great for people who are not able to do a regular push-up. Stand with feet about 12 inches from a wall. Place hands a little wider than shoulders. Lower your chest to the wall, then push back to the starting position.

Aerobic Exercise for Arthritis

For any adult - including people with arthritis -- 30 minutes of exercise, at least three times a week, is advised. "But you can accumulate it in small amounts during the day," says Weil. "Start with 5 to 10 minutes, then increase slowly."

Walking, biking, swimming, tai chi, yoga, and water aerobics are good for arthritis, says Weil. Water exercise is especially ideal because of water's soothing warmth and buoyancy. It's a gentle way to exercise joints and muscles -- plus it acts as resistance to help build muscle strength.

Spas and hot tubs are comforting and allow some gentle exercise. But one note of caution: Elderly people are more prone to becoming overheated, so soaking time in tubs and spas should be shorter. Water aerobics programs -- many especially for people with arthritis -- are very popular at indoor pools, Weil adds. Many are sponsored by the Arthritis Foundation.

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