Arthritis affects 53.2 million Americans. This debilitating disease impacts your joints and leads to stiffness, pain, and swelling. Arthritis commonly shows up as osteoarthritis, or wear-and-tear arthritis, but can also manifest as psoriatic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout.
Arthritis pain can feel like a roadblock to physical activity. But here at Maryland Orthopedic Specialists, our team encourages physical activity for people with arthritis. Movement helps lubricate the joints and alleviate symptoms like stiffness and limited range of motion.
Read on to learn how you can still be active if you have arthritis and actually thrive in your fitness pursuits.
About arthritis and exercise
There are many types of arthritis, but all typically cause joint inflammation and discomfort. When you use the affected joints, you may experience pain, so it seems that sitting still is the better choice.
This is what leads to the common mistaken belief that exercise worsens arthritis symptoms. In reality, the right kind of activity can be immensely beneficial. Exercise does not accelerate the progression of arthritis.
Low-impact exercises such as swimming, walking, and cycling are joint-friendly options that enhance flexibility and strength without putting excessive strain on your joints.
Choosing smart exercises
High-impact activity can be uncomfortable, so if you are accustomed to running or jumping as part of your fitness plan, you may need to shift your approach.
The key to maintaining an active lifestyle with arthritis is a customized exercise plan. Our orthopedists and physical therapists can help you design a program that addresses your specific needs and limitations.
Tailored exercises strengthen the muscles surrounding your joints, improve stability, and contribute to overall joint health.
Strength training for arthritis
Strength training is a game-changer if you have arthritis. Building muscle provides added support to your joints. Targeting specific muscle groups through resistance exercises not only helps manage your weight but also reduces stress on the affected joints.
For example, if you have arthritis in the hips, strengthening your thigh (quadricep and hamstring) and buttock (gluteal) muscles supports movement and alleviates pain of bone-on-bone friction.
Flexibility and improving range of motion
Arthritis often leads to stiffness in the joints, limiting mobility. It becomes a cycle: The less you move, the stiffer you become and the less you want to move.
Incorporating regular flexibility and range-of-motion exercises into your routine counteracts this stiffness. Yoga and gentle stretching exercises not only enhance joint flexibility but also promote relaxation, helping you better cope with the emotional aspects of living with arthritis.
Our physical therapy team prescribes appropriate movements for your case.
Have fun while being active
Engaging in activities you enjoy helps you maintain an active lifestyle even when arthritis flares up. Whether it's dancing, gardening, or playing a favorite sport, finding joy in movement positively affects your physical and mental well-being.
Your goal is not perfection or winning, but finding sustainable activities that bring happiness and contribute to your overall health.
Arthritis can feel debilitating at times, but it doesn’t mean you have to give up on a physically active lifestyle. With the help of our specialists, you can learn how to stay active and manage symptoms.
Visit one of the offices of Maryland Orthopedic Specialists today. We have locations in Bethesda, Rockville, or Germantown, Maryland. Call us at 301-515-0900 or set up an appointment here.