If you feel any joint pain, you may shrink from any physical activity. The truth is, with exercise, you can make your joints stronger so you can move more freely. Exercise also helps you maintain your ideal weight and reduce pressure on your joints. What’s important is to know what exercises you can do.
Safe exercises for your joints
Stretching exercises are the simplest and easiest. They consist of stretching and holding different joint and muscle groups for 10 – 30 seconds each. Stretching improves joint mobility and flexibility, and daily stretching is the basis for any exercise programme.
Strength exercises involve working the muscle against resistance. This can be with or without weights. Resistance training strengthens the muscle and increases the amount of activity you can do pain-free. Strengthening your thigh muscles, in particular, is specially beneficial – as these support your knee joints where you are most likely to feel pain.
Conditioning exercises, also called aerobic exercise, improve cardiovascular fitness. It makes your heart and blood vessels healthier, prevents disability, and improves mood and well-being. Good conditioning exercises for people with arthritis include low-impact activities like walking, swimming, bicycling, or using an elliptical machine. Any of these will get your heart pumping.
More tips to protect your joints
Start slowly. Take it easy on your joints in the beginning and increase your workout’s intensity gradually. Don’t push yourself too hard or overwork your muscles, as this can worsen your joint pain.
About 20 minutes before you start, apply a warm towel or compress to the joints you will work out, or take a warm shower – this will relax your joints and muscles and relieve any pain.
Move your joints gently at first to warm up. Start with with stretching exercises for 5-10 minutes before moving on to strengthening or aerobic exercises.
Exercise with slow and easy movements. If you feel pain, take a break. Sharp pain and pain that is stronger than your usual joint pain indicates something is wrong. Slow down if you notice inflammation or redness in your joints.
Ice your joints after exercising to reduce swelling and pain. Use a cold pack on your joints for 10 to 15 minutes.
Important: Don’t overdo it! Don’t exert more than your joints can handle. Take it easy and slowly increase both the amount of time and intensity of your workout. Consult your doctor before you start an exercise programme and keep him updated on your progress, particularly if you continue to feel pain.