Only someone with arthritis can truly understand what it feels like. There are more than a hundred different types of arthritis, and in most cases, the most prominent symptom is pain around the joints caused by inflammation. It isn’t just minor aches. For some, joint pain from arthritis can feel debilitating, making simple tasks, like climbing stairs, feel next to impossible.
When you suffer from arthritis, the last thing you probably want to do is get up and exercise. The chronic joint pain and stiffness from arthritis can make it hard to keep moving. And although a lot of people feel like exercising will make it worse, keeping active can actually help improve your painful arthritis symptoms. This can be anything from stretching, to cardio or weight training.
The Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City has put this theory to the test by using exercises like Pilates, yoga, and tai chi with patients who have osteoarthritis, the most prevalent form of arthritis. They held weekly classes with exercises that were specially designed for the condition.
Using surveys and self-reported data from 200 patients, 53% said they felt relief from pain after completing the exercise programs. Among people who didn’t do any exercise before starting the classes, 62% experienced pain relief. The patients also reported that they felt an improvement in how much their arthritis pain interfered with everyday life. There were also fewer people making return visits to the hospital because of slips and falls.
There have been other successful examples of how exercise can improve the quality of life for arthritis sufferers. One way to make sure that the exercise you’re doing will actually work with your arthritis symptoms, and not against them, is one-on-one training. Yes, it can come with a heavy price tag, but personal training allows you to work with a customized program that targets your individual needs. Individualized instruction in aerobics and high-intensity exercise has been shown to reduce joint pain caused by arthritis. It also reduces the risk of heart disease in aging adults.
Although arthritis doesn’t discriminate against age or race, it’s usually considered an age-related condition because of how prevalent it is among the elderly. It also gets harder to manage with age, and can worsen over time. But when arthritis gets you down, the best thing you can do for your body—and the joint pain—is get right back up and exercise.
Always remember, however, that the most important thing is finding the right level and type of exercise for you, whether it’s working with a personal trainer or taking part in a class. It’s also useful to know your body, and when it would be most receptive to exercise. For example, if you usually experience arthritis-related joint pain first thing in the morning, it may too hard to start your day at the gym; try walking around your neighborhood instead. If you have trouble sleeping at night, don’t do strenuous exercises within two hours before hitting the sack. Always stay in tune with your body—that way if your arthritis symptoms get better or worse, you can adjust your exercise routine accordingly.