050210 Exercising with arthritis

Exercising with arthritis may seem like it’s an oxymoron statement but it’s not. One of the ways to manage arthritis is by being active. The key to staying active is to exercise but first you have to identify and then use an appropriate level of stress during these sessions.

Resistance training is often used to strengthen the muscles around each joint. The intensity of the exercises as well as the volume and recovery times between sessions may have to be modified and adjusted for the trainee depending on their level of pain.

Ultimately it is up to the individual to weigh the risk and rewards of their activity level and the life they want to lead. You can do one of two things; live it in pain or work on making it feel better. If you decide to do the latter here are five points to consider when making your training decisions.

  1. Avoid constant lifting with weight loads greater than 75% of your 1 repetition maximum. There are clearly established guidelines for percentage based lifting. One of the best being Prilipin’s table. Competent strength coaches know this table and how to apply it to their training programs.
  2. Reduce the amount of high impact and compressive types of activities that cause increased damage to your joints. Included in this exercise caveat are jumping, running (especially on hard surfaces) and kneeling if arthritis is in your knees. These are common sense cautions. I tell my trainees if it hurts, don’t do it.
  3. Do your training standing up. Make it ground based and not machine based. This builds coordination, stimulates bone formation by loading the long bones, the spinal column and develops the major muscles groups. These protect and stabilize the load bearing joints.
  4. Stretch daily. Doing so maintains the extensibility of the muscles, tendons and ligaments function within the joint range of motion.
  5. Use ice if needed after exercise. It helps reduce some of the post-exercise soreness and inflammation. Don’t put the ice directly on your skin.

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