Osteoarthritis is one of the more common types of arthritis and one that I live with myself. I am grateful that, so far, my osteoarthritis is limited to my feet, wrists, and neck. But, unfortunately, there is not yet a cure for osteoarthritis, and the symptoms may include joint pain, joint stiffness, and inflammation. This damage results from cartilage between bones breaking down, which results in a bone moving on another bone.
The disease can negatively impact the ability to move with ease, which means it can affect many aspects of life, including work and play. Despite this grim outlook, managing arthritis symptoms is possible, as is a full, rich, and active life. I don’t let my arthritis hold me back from regular exercise, mountain biking, and a variety of water sports. However, there may be times that your osteoarthritis will dictate how much you can do, but remember that even a little activity is always best.
Knowing how much and when to move when you have osteoarthritis can be confusing. It may seem like rest and limiting activity is the safest bet, as movement can be painful. However, the Arthritis Foundation recommends regular physical activity, stating that “movement is an essential part of an OA treatment plan.” So, while it may seem best to remain still as it may hurt to move, this will only lead to stiffer and more painful joints.
They go on to recommend that those with osteoarthritis engage in 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise every week. That may seem like a lot of activity, but it’s only half an hour each day! Concentrate on range of motion exercises and stretching to keep your joints as mobile as you can. Many local pools offer range of motion classes in warm water; buoyancy creates a forgiving atmosphere to work out and build mobility.
Always prepare your body and your joints for exercise by warming up and warming down. Regular exercise should also include strengthening exercises. By training your muscles to become as strong as they can be, you will better protect joints by easing the stress on them from everyday tasks. In addition, a strong body is better able to support and protect joints already damaged by osteoarthritis. Lifting weights is a great option, but strengthening can also come from yoga, resistance bands, and more!
Cardiovascular exercise is vital for your heart, lungs, and overall health. By engaging in regular aerobic activity, you will help yourself to maintain your ideal body composition.
For example, excess weight causes stress on all of our joints, so losing that extra weight will help you reduce pain and slow down the loss of cartilage.
If you are new to exercise, start easy and build from a place of comfort. If you are unsure what activities are suitable for you, check in with an exercise specialist, physiotherapist, or personal trainer.
In addition, maintaining a healthy lifestyle through regular exercise will lead to an improved mood and better sleep! Choose activities that offer a low impact, such as swimming, water running, walking, and cycling! There are many options to stay active that are joint-friendly.
Check out your community, as many offer group wellness classes for those with osteoarthritis. These classes may be offered through arthritis organizations, as well as private and public fitness centers. As an added benefit, fitness classes are led and supervised by exercise specialists, so they can safely guide and monitor your fitness progress.
While it’s a common disease, proper diagnosis and treatment are essential to living your best life. If you think you may have osteoarthritis, meet with your health care team. Once you have a diagnosis, you can begin to develop a treatment and management strategy that will allow you to focus on staying active, enjoying sports, and living well!