Exercise and arthritis are two words that are not usually used together. But they should be. Exercise is very important for people who have arthritis because regular physical activity can help decrease joint pain and fatigue, increase strength and flexibility, and control joint swelling and pain. Exercise also has been shown to enhance energy, and improve sleep and general well-being. Exercise will not aggravate joint pain and stiffness. In reality, the opposite is true. Not exercising can actually weaken muscles and surrounding tissue resulting in less support for your bones and more stress on your joints.
To encourage people with arthritis to exercise, Doctors Hospital at White Rock Lake will recognize the month of May as Arthritis Awareness Month. According to the Arthritis Foundation, 46 million Americans have arthritis and the disease accounts for approximately 44 million outpatient visits, 992,100 hospitalizations, and 9,300 deaths annually.
To help those with arthritis exercise, the hospital offers an aqua arthritis exercise class that is specifically designed to help increase range of motion in joints and strengthen muscles weakened by the disease. The class is taught by an Arthritis Foundation certified water aerobics instructor who guides participants through a series of water exercises in the hospital’s warm-water, indoor pool. The class costs $50 per month for classes held Monday, Wednesday and Friday from noon to 1:00 p.m. or 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. For more information or to register for the aqua therapy class, call 281-324-6549.
“The goals of an exercise program for someone with arthritis should focus on range of motion and stretching to relieve stiffness, strengthening muscles to support and protect joints, and aerobic exercise to help with overall fitness,” says Jorge Ontiveros, M.D., internal medicine physician on the medical staff at Doctors Hospital at White Rock Lake. “It is important to remember to engage in regular physical activity that targets the entire body, not just the joints that are affected by arthritis.”
Exercising does not have to be strenuous to provide health benefits. People with arthritis should avoid high-impact aerobic activities, such as running, jumping, tennis, or any sport that involves repeating the same movement again and again. Instead, low-impact activities, including walking, riding a bike, or swimming, are recommended to improve cardiovascular health and control weight.
“The type of activity you choose will depend on the type of arthritis you have, joints involved and their stability, amount of inflammation, any joint replacements, and other physical limitations,” says Dr. Ontiveros. “Begin slowly and eventually work your way up to about 30 minutes of aerobic activity three times per week. You can split that time into 10-minute increments to better suit your comfort level or not overexert yourself. Try to pick exercises that you enjoy and fit into your daily schedule.”