Arthritis is becoming more and more common — and not just among the very old. Unfortunately, many arthritis sufferers mistakenly believe that exercise will worsen their condition.
The reality is, however, that exercise can be extremely beneficial. “A well-rounded physical activity program of stretching, strength training and aerobic exercise can help minimize many of the adverse effects of arthritis and improve overall functional capacity,” says Dr. Cedric Bryant, Chief Science Officer for the American Council on Exercise.
Here are 10 reasons that those who suffer from arthritis should start an exercise program.
1. Flexibility training helps improve range of motion and reduces stiffness in afflicted joints, especially the early-morning stiffness often associated with arthritis.
2. Aerobic exercise, particularly low-impact activities such as walking, not only improves overall fitness, but also helps reduce the psychological and emotional pain that often accompanies arthritis.
3. Strength-training exercises help build muscle strength, enhance joint stability and improve mobility, making it easier to perform activities of daily living.
4. Both weight-bearing (e.g., walking) and weight-loading (e.g., strength training) exercise positively affect bone mass, helping to reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis, a degenerative bone disease that is often seen in people with arthritis due to their reduced levels of physical activity.
5. Arthritis can negatively affect posture, balance and coordination, all of which may be improved by regular exercise.
6. Excess weight (especially in the form of extra body fat) places additional strain on the joints, so maintaining a healthy body weight is very important for people with arthritis. Along with a sensible diet, exercise plays a key role in helping individuals maintain normal body weight levels.
7. Exercise has been shown to help manage stress, which can take its toll on the whole body, including the joints.
8. Because it is a chronic degenerative disease, people with arthritis often become depressed and develop a poor self-image. Those who exercise, however, are less likely to be depressed and tend to possess more positive mental outlooks.
9. Painful joints can make getting a good night’s sleep difficult, if not impossible. Regular exercise has been shown to improve overall sleep patterns and may help lessen this problem.
10. Because arthritis frequently leads to a more sedentary lifestyle, individuals with this condition are often at an increased risk of developing other significant health problems, such as heart disease or diabetes. Staying active and exercising regularly is an effective means of not only controlling the effects of arthritis, but also of minimizing or eliminating the risk of developing a variety of other lifestyle-related diseases.