It’s hard to describe joint pain to those that don’t know how it feels. Let’s focus on some exercise that may help with easing joint pain and can also help you sleep better at night and feel better the next day.
Rhonda Reininger, associate director of the physical therapy and occupational therapy department at NYU Hospital for Joint Diseases, tells us that “Exercise can be a key component in keeping joint pain at bay. It can also give you more energy and improve your mood. Walking, cycling, swimming, and light weight training done three times a week for 30 minutes can offer these benefits, but check with your doctor to make sure they are safe for you.”
She also recommends that we start with short exercises, avoiding heavy weights, in order to assess how we will feel when we workout. And that if you experience pain for more than an hour or so after, you may have overdone it.
The most important thing to keep in mind when considering exercise with joint pain is to avoid strenuous exercise if it is painful. Try a short walk or easy peddle on a stationary bike instead. Additionally, if you start to feel joint pain during your workout, try changing your position or activity. And, as always, stay hydrated!
Here are some things to consider when exercising with joint pain:
Stretch – Stretching allows your muscles to better take the weight and strain of your workout. Otherwise, they may pass it on to your joints. Here are three easy stretches to get you started (remember — don’t bounce):
Hips – Lying on your back, bend your knees upward then cross one leg over another. Pull them toward your chest for 20 to 30 seconds. Switch legs and repeat.
Knees and Quads – Kneeling on your right knee, place your left foot ahead of you. Keep that left knee over your left ankle. Hold that position for up 30 seconds and feel the stretch in your right quadriceps. Switch legs and repeat.
Back – Starting on all fours, lift your butt into the air, creating an upside down V with your body. This is a yoga position called “Downward Facing Dog”. Hold this position for up to a minute.
Warm Up – As we get older, our joints and muscles stiffen up and lose some flexibility. After your stretch, go for a short walk of 5-10 minutes.
Cardio – If you’re just starting out, it’s best to first find out where your limits are. Begin with a recumbent stationary bike. If you find that you’re completely comfortable after 10 minutes or so, move to a traditional upright stationary bike. If you start to feel strain in your joints, that’s a good place to stop. Note your progress as you go. Eventually, try moving on to an elliptical or a treadmill.
Yoga and Pilates – The slow, gentle, low-impact activity that Yoga or Pilates provides may be just the thing you need. Yoga and Pilates focuses on, among other things, the mobility, stability and flexibility of joints. Additional benefits include increased body awareness, improved balance and better body alignment. A study by the Arthritis Foundation found that a one hour yoga class, twice each week, helped eased pain and swelling associated with rheumatoid arthritis.
Dive In – As well as reducing the perceived weight of your body, the buoyancy of the water takes much of the impact of a workout off of your joints. The deeper the pool, the better support you get. Water provides resistance. This will build and strengthen the muscle, which (as above) supports and protects your joints.