Flexibile BabyThere’s nothing better than reconnecting and catching up with old friends.  I recently went to Austin to celebrate a dear friend’s 50th Birthday.  While drinking coffee the day after the party, we got on the subject of our joints.  A lot of the women had either played and/or coached basketball so it was interesting to see all the surgical scars promptly displayed on many of the knees in the room.  You could tell when the surgery was performed just by looking at the size and placement of the incisions.

Almost everyone, except my friend who was turning 50, complained of some kind of joint pain (maybe she was lying—with turning 50 and all).  In this group, the complaints were mostly about their knees and hips.  But we all agreed on one thing:  if you do nothing, you feel worse—much worse.

Why Worse?

Common sense would tell you that if you rest a joint that has arthritis in it, it will feel better.  Now sometimes this may be true but it’s important for you to understand why exercise is good—even if you’re hurting.  So, here are 10 great reasons why you should keep moving:

  1. Exercise helps increase your range of motion and flexibility.
  2. Exercise reduces stiffness in the joint.
  3. Exercise helps build strong muscles around your joints.  The stronger the muscles, the more support your joint has.
  4. Exercise helps reduce joint pain.
  5. Exercise helps you maintain a healthy body weight.  Carrying too much weight is really tough on your joints.
  6. Exercise helps prevent osteoporosis.
  7. Exercise helps you sleep better.  Many people with chronic pain don’t sleep well.  This is a horrible cycle to be in since the lack of sleep can leave you completely exhausted—which makes you feel even worse.
  8. Exercise boosts your self-confidence.
  9. Exercise helps fight depression—which can be brought on by chronic pain, lack of sleep and an inactive lifestyle.
  10. Exercise gives you increased levels of energy.

What Should I Do?

Low impact activities are great if you’re suffering from joint pain.  For cardiovascular exercise, try swimming, walking, pool exercises, leg presscycling, rowing and various kinds of low impact cardio equipment—such as an elliptical machine.

Range of motion exercises (also known as flexibility exercises) should become an extremely important part of your day.  Many affected joints become much worse because people stop moving their aching joints because they hurt.  This causes them to get stiffer.  Exercise your joints through their entire range of motion when you get up in the morning and again before you go to bed.

And don’t forget strengthening exercises.  It’s so important to keep your muscles as strong as possible to help protect your affected joints.  Do these exercises through your pain-free range of motion.

Get Professional Advice

As you know, please talk to your doctor before starting any exercise program.  Since everyone is different, and there are many types of arthritis, you’ll need to experiment with various types of exercises to determine what makes YOU feel the best.  Also, a personal trainer or physical therapist can help steer you in the right direction and help you stay on track.

The most important thing to remember is this:  If you feel increased pain during the exercise, stop.  The good news is that there are many ways you can exercise that will make you feel BETTER and not worse.

Stay Healthy and Strong!