For some people, building up the courage and the willpower to start a fitness routine is hard, more so if you have health problems like osteoarthritis that cause you pain and limited mobility.
Millions of people experience osteoarthritis (OA), the most common of all forms of arthritis. The condition stems from the breakdown of connective tissues, known as cartilage, in the body’s joints (specifically in the hands, knees, spine, and hips). Cartilage covers the bones and serves as its shock absorber. Its firm and rubbery texture allow for flexibility that prevents friction in the joints.
Osteoarthritis causes the cartilage to lose flexibility and elasticity as it becomes stiff and rigid. Eventually, the cartilage also wears down and deteriorates, resulting in painful bone-on-bone rubbing.
What Causes Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is prevalent among adults over 60 years old. According to the United Nations, the senior population will comprise 20 percent of the world’s population in 2050 and from this, 15 percent will suffer from osteoarthritis.
The condition has no specific causes but experts have narrowed down the risk factors to:
- Obesity and excess weight issues
- Joint overuse
Doctors determine the extent of the condition through several tests. Treatments also vary but may involve weight loss regimens, medications, physical therapy, and exercises.
Research shows that younger people might develop osteoarthritis if they are active and athletic. The symptoms, however, might not manifest right away and there can be a delay in the diagnosis because of an athlete’s high tolerance for pain. Regular doctor visits should be helpful in these instances.
Why is Exercise Important if You Have Osteoarthritis?
Regular exercise and staying active provide plenty of benefits if you suffer from osteoarthritis including:
- Reduced pain and stiffness in joints as it helps with cartilage lubrication
- Strengthened muscles giving joints extra support
- Healthier weight loss that decreases joint pressure
- Improved overall health
Before carrying out a fitness regimen, however, you’ll need to get a physical evaluation from your physician. You should start slowly and incorporate physical activities into your daily routines, such as walking or dancing. If you have knee osteoarthritis, you can also wear an insole as a non-invasive treatment to manage pain and inflammation as you do your daily routines.
Over time and with a clearance from your doctor, you can add other routines to your fitness plan. Ideally, there are three types of exercises that work best for people with osteoarthritis:
- Flexibility exercises or range of motion exercises that loosen the joints, such as yoga or Pilates
- Aerobic exercises that help pump the heart and increase the blood flow, such as walking, running or swimming
- Resistance training that strengthens the ligaments, muscles, and tendons such as weightlifting
Home Exercises for Osteoarthritis
If you’re unable to go walking, swimming, or do yoga, you can still keep fit with simple home exercises like these:
- Sit flat on the floor with your legs stretched out to your front. Put a pillow between your knees and try to squeeze this for 20 seconds and then release. You can also replace a pillow with a ball. You might also want to elevate your legs a few inches for a more challenging routine.
- Lie down on your side and try raising your leg while keeping it straight. Hold the position for eight seconds and do at least 10 reps before switching to the other side.
- Stand up on one leg and slowly raise your heel while keeping your legs straight. Hold the position for five to eight seconds and repeat as needed before switching to the other leg. Hold on to a chair or the edge of the table for balance, if necessary.
- While sitting down, rest your foot on a small stool. Flex this foot towards you. Make sure that your heel is firmly on the stool and your knee is straight. Then try to reach your toes with both hands by gently bending down. Hold the position for 30 seconds. Repeat at least five times before doing the same for the other foot.
Living with Osteoarthritis
Apart from exercising, other factors also affect your body’s fitness when you have osteoarthritis.
Your doctor or physical therapist might recommend supportive devices when you embark on your workouts. Wearing a knee support or brace made of neoprene material can help stabilize the tendons or ligaments when you move and ease off pressure in the joints. The compression also reduces swelling following a good workout.
Keeping fit can prevent the progression of joint damage if you have osteoarthritis. If pain, swelling, and discomfort continue despite following these tips, consult your doctor as soon as possible.