According to the Arthritis Society Canada, one out of every two seniors aged 65 years and older has arthritis. With over 100 different types of arthritis, the most common types include osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Osteoarthritis takes the top spot, impacting about 3.9 million Canadians. The Osteoarthritis Research Society International (OARSI) defines this condition as the result of the body’s failed attempt to repair damaged joint tissues, which explains why this type of arthritis is more common with increasing age.

Rheumatoid arthritis, on the other hand, is an autoimmune condition that can affect anyone at any age. This condition is marked by small to large amounts of inflammation and the breakdown of the joints—commonly impacting the hands, feet, ankles, wrists, shoulders, elbows, and knees.

For the sake of this article, we’re going to focus primarily on exercising with osteoarthritis. So, what should you know? Below, we offer up exercise tips to help you lead your healthiest and best life, even while living with arthritis.

5 Tips for Working Out With (Osteo)Arthritis

While osteoarthritis may occur from age-related deterioration, it may also result after injury. The joint cartilage slowly breaks down, leading to painful bone-on-bone contact. 

Interestingly, osteoarthritis may also arise due to misalignment within the body. For instance, if you’re compensating for a particular weak spot, this can lead to increased strain on certain joints. Furthermore, being overweight is a huge risk factor for osteoarthritis, also due to the increased stress on the body’s joints.

Often, those with osteoarthritis will experience crepitus (rubbing of damaged joint cartilage), and a dull-ache-like pain around or on the affected joint. However, movement can help! 

Exercise helps strengthen the muscles around the joint and helps re-align the body to limit stress and absorb shock. So, what should you know about working out with osteoarthritis?

Tip #1: Always Warm-Up

Exercise has the incredible ability to increase mobility and range of motion. It helps to improve synovial fluid around the joint, which can ease the pain associated with arthritis, and reduces joint stiffness. However, it’s always important to warm up for at least five to 10 minutes before diving into your workout.

This helps prepare the joints for what’s to come and ensures you don’t expose yourself to injury. Consider stretching or foam rolling before and after your workout. Foam rolling, specifically, can help reduce muscle tightness or stiffness, allowing you to have a safe and effective workout.

Tip #2: Eat to Reduce Inflammation

It’s not just about what you do during your workout!

Outside of the gym or your exercise session, make sure to reduce inflammatory foods in your diet. This may mean eating a more alkaline diet or going low glycemic, such as incorporating more green vegetables or lentils.

If you have food allergies or intolerance, be cautious of this since they can aggravate arthritis. Lastly, limit or avoid alcohol and refined sugar, as these also trigger inflammatory responses.

Tip #3: Focus on Single Joint Exercises First

For each exercise, perform the movement in a slow and controlled manner. Yet, don’t jump right into compound movements – such as a squats or push-ups. Instead, with arthritis, it’s best to first focus on single-joint exercises. These isolate specific muscles and won’t place excess stress on your joints, especially those impacted by your arthritis.

For instance, instead of doing overhead shoulder presses, it may make sense to target the shoulder through lateral raises, flexions, and extensions. This still works to improve the strength around the shoulder but won’t risk increased pain, flare-ups, or injury. Once you increase your strength, you may move onto performing more compound movements, depending on your pain and the joints affected by your arthritis.

Tip #4: Opt for Static Exercises

Static exercises can also be an excellent pathway to improve muscular strength. For example, you might struggle to perform a squat due to arthritic knee pain. In this case, doing a wall sit may be more appropriate. It still loads the same muscles but won’t cause harm to your joints.

Other static exercises that may be useful for those with osteoarthritis include the wall-sit, static push-ups and static spinal extensions.

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Wall sits are an especially useful static exercise for those with osteoarthritis.

Tip #5: Go Low Impact

While gaining strength is inevitably important, it’s also essential to follow a balanced program. Research shows that low-impact cardiovascular activities, such as swimming, can prove highly beneficial for those with osteoarthritis. This is due to the buoyancy of the water, which alleviates the weight on your joints.

At the same time, make sure to listen to your body! If something doesn’t feel right, perhaps it’s best to steer clear of that exercise for now. When in doubt, discuss your options with your doctor or reach out to your support team.

At Nielsen Fitness, we’re here for you. If you’re searching for a Toronto personal trainer, or if you are in Collingwood then your options include working with us in one of our studios, or we can bring the workout to you at your home – zero equipment required. Not in our service area? Then there’s always virtual personal training, which is a highly effective way for us to help you wherever you may be in the world. Apply for a complimentary first workout today, or share this with a friend.

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