A body of research shows that exercise can ease many types of pain, from arthritis to low back pain. Many of us may not only miss out on a great source of pain relief, but we could be making pain worse, by not moving enough.
“If you stay moving and stay active as you get older, you naturally maintain the mobility and simple strength of your body that helps prevent the muscle imbalances that create pain,” says Polivka.
A great exercise that almost everyone can do is walking. But Polivka notes that a lot of people are walking wrong. (Yes, you’ve been walking since you were a year old, but it’s possible to do it wrong.)
“Most people walk with their knees instead of with their hips,” she explains. The basics of a healthy stride can be described in three steps:
- Push off from the balls of your feet.
- Swing your arms.
- Take a long stride, not short steps.
Walk briskly enough, so you're slightly winded. You should be able to still talk but not sing.
A well-rounded exercise program should also include flexibility and strength training. “The stronger and more flexible you are, the more your body can distribute force throughout your system rather than concentrating it at each joint, which leads to more pain,” Nessler says. And of course, exercising regularly may help you reduce body weight, which can significantly decrease pain -- particularly in the joints of your hip, knee, and ankle, and in your lower back.
These tricks may not completely eliminate pain from your life -- but try them for a few weeks, and you’re likely to feel much less discomfort. And unlike medication, they come with no side effects. But remember to check with your doctor before starting any exercise program.