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Information for Patients & Caregivers

Living with Arthritis

What exercise can I do to assist my treatment?

Exercise is an integral part of treating arthritis. Exercise by itself will not wear out your joints. Activities such as walking, swimming, or gardening can assist in keeping your bones strong and your joints limber.

Always consult your doctor before starting any exercise program.

Strengthening
Joint swelling and pain can make muscles weak, which is a problem with arthritis. Strong muscles help absorb shock, support joints, and protect you from injuries. Research has also shown that strengthening exercises in the hip, knee and ankle lead to improved balance. Your doctor and physiotherapist can help you develop a strengthening program, if appropriate.

Stretching
Flexibility is necessary for comfortable movement during exercise and daily activities. Joint motion also helps lubricate your joints and nourish your cartilage. Generally, stretching is tolerated on a daily basis and is an excellent form of relaxation. Your doctor can help you develop a stretching program, if appropriate.

Aquatic Therapy
Aquatic therapy is an excellent form of exercise for people managing arthritis and pain. The water's buoyancy protects your joints from impact injury. The water also resists movement, which is helpful for strengthening. Ask your doctor for information on aquatic classes near you.

Walking
Walking is an excellent endurance exercise for almost anyone, including those with arthritis. Check with your doctor to obtain any precautions or guidelines.

Getting Started:

  • Seek help from a healthcare professional to assist you in setting up an individual exercise programme.
  • Make a plan! Write it down! Set goals!
  • Exercise at the same time each day so it becomes part of your routine.
  • Find an exercise "buddy."
  • Look for an appropriate exercise class.
  • Stay in the habit of doing some exercise each day. On days when you have more pain, make an effort even if you just do some gentle stretching.
  • Vary your exercise routine; rotate your exercises.

Evaluate your progress and enjoy your success

How much exercise is too much?
If you note increased joint swelling, decreased joint motion, unusual or persistent fatigue, or continuing pain, you may be exercising too much. You should expect some muscle soreness, especially if you are just beginning your program or have changed exercises. Joint pain should not last more than several hours after exercise.

Body Mechanics
Body mechanics is based on the theory that good posture and alignment combined with exercise, will ensure balance of posture muscles and can help relieve strain from muscles and joints.
Proper body mechanics can lead to a more effective use of your body and less strain on your joints. The following activity modification guidelines may prove helpful:

  • Avoid stooping; stand up straight
  • Avoid sitting in low chairs to reduce stress on your knees and hips when sitting and rising.
  • While traveling, get up and move around every hour or so to avoid stiff joints.
  • Avoid impact-loading activities (e.g. running, jumping).
  • Reduce climbing (e.g. stairs, hills, etc.).