Guest Author - Elizabeth Brennan
Arthritis is caused by inflammation of the cartilage and lining of the joints. This causes redness of the area affected, swelling, severe pain and warmth. Many arthritis sufferers mistakenly think that they cannot exercise as it may worsen their condition. However this is not true. In most cases exercise will help. Be sure to check with your doctor or medical care provider first so they can advise you, as they know all your personal history
Walking helps build strength and maintain joint flexibility. It also aids bone health and reduces the risk of osteoporosis. Inactivity on the other hand has the opposite effect. The less we exercise the more inflexible our joints become. Walking is also an endurance exercise. It strengthens your heart, helps your lungs work more efficiently and gives you more stamina.
Exercise is important for healthy joints. Moving them daily keeps them mobile. Strengthening muscles makes them better able to support the joints. Moving the joints helps transport nutrients and waste materials to and from the cartilage. This is important to reduce inflammation in the cartilage surrounding the joints.
Arthritis is a stressful and debilitating illness and regular exercise like walking has great psychological effects. It decreases the depression, fatigue and stress associated with the illness. It will help you sleep better
Arthritis sufferers should participate in three types of exercise: range of motion exercises, strengthening exercises and endurance exercises. The range of motion exercises which aim to move each joint to its maximum capacity can be done as a prelude to walking. You can rotate your ankles, wrists, neck, arms and shoulders as you watch television. Strengthening exercises aim to strengthen the muscles. All the major muscles can be exercised in turn. It is important not to overdo any exercise at the beginning. Start by doing the exercise a few times and gradually build up over a period of days or weeks to repeating the exercise ten times.
If you wear a pedometer you can track the number of steps you take and then increase it gradually. Try to increase by about ten per cent per week. I am a fibromyalgia sufferer which is akin to arthritis in that there is a lot of joint stiffness and muscle pain associated with the condition. However I find walking a great help. I am never worse after walking and I have a good reason to feel tired!
If you are not up to taking a walk outside your home yet try to find ways at home to increase your steps. Don’t use the remote control on the television – get up and physically turn it on or off. Walk around during the breaks on television. Do a few extra journeys to the dishwasher as you clear the table. Go outside, walk around and enjoy your garden. Park a little further away from your destination in the car park. Every step counts!
For joint mobility the old adage ‘use them or lose’ them certainly applies.