by Rich Wallace
If you’re dealing with the pain and stiffness of arthritis, trying to exercise may seem counterproductive. But gentle (and sometimes vigorous) exercise can bring relief.
Stretch It Out
Range-of-motion exercises can reduce stiffness and keep your joints flexible. That will also reduce your pain.
Here are three basic stretches. Hold each for 10 to 20 seconds and repeat a few times.
- Stand with one hand against a wall for support. With your other hand, reach behind and grab your ankle, gently pulling it toward your buttocks until you feel a stretch in the quadriceps muscle. Then do the other leg.
- Stand about two feet from a wall and place both hands on it, then lean forward to stretch your calves. Keep your back straight and your feet flat.
- To stretch your hamstring, lie flat on your back and bend your knee. Bring the thigh back and hug it to your chest. You can stretch at any time during the day, and several sessions will be more beneficial than one.
Many types of aerobic exercise help people with arthritis. Exercising in water is good because the buoyancy reduces the load on the joints. Pool aerobics and swimming are great choices.
Hiking, t’ai chi, qi gong, walking, and dance are other options. Avoid high-impact aerobic exercises such as kickboxing and step aerobics—they can be tough on the joints.
Yoga is great for flexibility, but it also promotes strength, good posture, endurance, and balance—all of which are useful in dealing with arthritis. Yoga can also boost your energy level and reduce aches and pains. A beginning or gentle yoga class is a good place to start. Many health clubs, YMCAs, and community centers offer classes.