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Exercise and Osteoarthritis: What Helps or Hurts?

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common type of arthritis and affects more than 32.5 million Americans. Do you feel stiffness in your joints especially when you move? Exercise may be the last thing on your mind, but it’s one of the best ways to reduce osteoarthritis pain. 

Naima Cheema, MD, and her team at Nexclin Medicine, located in Roswell, Georgia, help patients living with osteoarthritis fight pain to improve their quality of life. Here’s everything you need to know about exercising with osteoarthritis.

Strengthening the muscles around your joints

You’ve probably heard how good exercise is for your health, and when living with OA, it’s no exception. Osteoarthritis usually starts in one joint, when the cartilage protecting the bones wears out after years of wear-and-tear. Exercise routes more blood and nutrients to your cartilage, which can alleviate stiffness and improve joint mobility.

Exercise also helps take the stress off the joints and surrounding muscles. Getting your heart rate up, too, can make you more flexible, which makes moving and shifting much easier. 

Some benefits of exercising for people living with OA include:

Exercise is a safe and natural way to manage joint pain, which also lowers your risk of other life-threatening health conditions like heart disease, osteoporosis, and diabetes.

The best types of exercise

Now that you know the benefits of exercising for osteoarthritis, you probably want to get moving. Always consult Dr. Cheema or your primary health doctor to find the best types of exercise for your osteoarthritis. Start slowly to get your body accustomed to the aerobic movement and to gradually work up your stamina.  Everyone’s body is different, but here are some of the most common, comfortable types of exercise for people with OA. 

Aerobic exercise is one of the best ways to get in shape while providing pain relief. This can be performed by walking, going on an elliptical, or riding a bike. Initially start with 30 minutes of exercise five times a week. 

Once you’ve built up some endurance, try to increase your exercise time to 45-minute sessions. Swimming, tai chi, and water aerobics are all good types of exercise for people with joint pain. Any type of water sport is a good option since the buoyancy takes some of the weight off your joints and muscles, and you can manipulate them comfortably while building muscle strength. 

The worst kinds of exercise

Don’t immediately turn to high-impact exercise if you have arthritis. Although running is great for your health, it can be hard on your joints and could potentially make your arthritis worse. If you're not a runner, it’s best to choose a different aerobic activity. 

For those who ran frequently before getting OA, running can still be an option if you take a few precautions. These include wearing comfortable running shoes and running on grass or another soft surface. 

It’s best to avoid any activity that involves heavy jumping because this could exacerbate your symptoms. Intense jumping up and down greatly increases the force of your body weight on your knees and ankles. To ensure you stay comfortable and healthy, always check with your primary care doctor before starting a new activity.

How losing weight helps arthritis

With every step you take, your knees carry 3-6 times the force of your body’s weight. The average person takes nearly 4,000 steps a day, which gives your knees quite the workout. In the long run, this may create swollen and painful joints.

Every time you lose a single pound, though, you'll take four pounds of pressure off your knees. Losing as little as five pounds could greatly decrease the stress from your knees and slow down the loss of cartilage, allowing you to move around much more easily. You don’t have to turn into a gym rat overnight or start a fad diet to shed some extra weight. In fact, losing one pound a week is a safe goal suggested by health experts.

Stop living in osteoarthritis pain and improve your quality of life today. Schedule your consultation with Dr. Cheema by calling 770-558-2873 or by booking online.

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