Arthritis – staying active is key
(Content prepared by Mary Pack Arthritis Program, Vancouver Coastal Health)
People living with arthritis are healthier, happier and live longer when they are physically active. Yet it is common to decrease activity levels and become more sedentary when faced with even the earliest arthritis symptoms such as pain, stiffness and fatigue. Being inactive can increase these symptoms as well as your risk of developing other health conditions including obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and osteoporosis. Research and clinical experience show that doing regular physical activity or specific exercises taught by your physiotherapist can reduce arthritis symptoms, improve muscle strength, protect your joints, reduce your risk of falls and increase your day-to-day functioning. Regular physical activity can help you stay at work and participate in your favourite community activities.
What kind of exercise is helpful?
For people with arthritis, there is a need to balance the time set aside for: 1) therapeutic or rehabilitative exercises (those prescribed by a health professional) and 2) recreational or sporting activities performed for fun and fitness.
Therapeutic exercise improves pain, swelling and stiffness enabling better function in joints or body parts affected by the arthritis or arthritis-related surgery. A therapeutic exercise program is designed for you after an interview and physical assessment.
Common types of therapeutic exercise include:
» Range of motion and flexibility exercises to reduce stiffness and improve movement in the joints and surrounding muscles and soft tissues.
» Resistance training to increase muscle strength and endurance, protect the joints, and make activities like climbing stairs easier.
» Aerobic or cardiovascular training increases your overall stamina, helps with weight control, and has benefits for stress, mood, sleep and general health.
» Body awareness or ‘neuromotor’ exercises can improve your posture, coordination and balance to lower your risk of falling.
Recreational or leisure time activities can include walking, gardening, golfing, cycling and cross country skiing. Choose activities that can be done in a safe, controlled manner, have a low risk of injury, and limit stress on painful joints. In most cases, recreational activities do not replace the need for therapeutic exercises. Talk to a health or exercise professional to learn which types of physical activity and exercise are right for you.
Reducing sedentary behaviour also has health benefits
Prolonged periods of time spent sitting
or lying down to read, watch TV or surf the web during the day can result in risks to your health even if you are getting enough physical activity. Try breaking up this sedentary behaviour by standing up to stretch or taking a few steps every 30 minutes.
How to get started
If you have been inactive recently, start by just doing a little bit of activity frequently throughout the day. If you’re ready to be more active, here are some more tips to get you started:
» Talk to your healthcare provider to determine your readiness to start being more active.
» Start a routine where you make physical activity a regular part of your week.
» Chose an activity that you enjoy and has the option of being with friends.
Here’s some other information related to this topic:
Here’s where you can get more information and ask questions:
Physical Activity Line 1-877-725-1149