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The Importance of Exercise When You Have Arthritis

Nov 13, 2023
The Importance of Exercise When You Have Arthritis
Millions of Americans have arthritis, along with the pain and stiffness it causes. While it may seem counterintuitive, exercise reduces your symptoms and keeps your joints healthy. Here’s how.

About a quarter of American adults have arthritis diagnosed by a doctor, according to the latest data from the CDC, and that doesn’t include people who have arthritis but haven’t seen a physician for their symptoms.

If you’re one of those millions experiencing sore and stiff joints, physical exercise is probably one of the last things you feel like doing. But the fact is, regular physical activity can actually improve arthritis symptoms and slow the progression of the disease — as long as you know your limits. 

At Health Meets Wellness, our team helps people in the Midtown East neighborhood of New York City manage their arthritis symptoms with medical therapy combined with lifestyle changes. Here’s how regular exercise helps keep your arthritis symptoms under control.

Quick facts about arthritis

Arthritis is a chronic and progressive disease that affects your joints. Most arthritis is caused by years of wear-and-tear that eventually breaks down the cartilage layer protecting the joint surfaces. 

As the cartilage wears away, inflammation occurs. Inflammation “speeds up” the joint degeneration process. Over time, you can wind up with stiff and sore joints that may be tender and warm to the touch. Without proper management, you can even experience permanent disability.

Most people with arthritis benefit from a comprehensive arthritis management plan that includes oral medication, joint injections, and physical therapy. Lifestyle changes are also important — and that includes getting regular exercise.

Benefits of exercise

Because arthritis affects your joints, exercise used to help relieve pain may seem odd. But regular activity offers many potential benefits for sore joints, including the following:

Reduces inflammation

Inflammation is a significant component of arthritis, causing pain and driving the progression of the disease. Being physically active promotes circulation to your joints, which helps control inflammation. Better circulation also eliminates toxic byproducts that can cause your symptoms to feel worse.

Improves joint support

Exercise strengthens the muscles surrounding your joints and keeps tendons and ligaments strong and flexible. That means your joints receive added support to help take some of the strain off the joint surfaces. Over time, reduced pressure can lead to less joint surface wear-and-tear — and fewer painful symptoms.

Maintains lubrication

Your joints are made to move. To keep them moving smoothly, the joints produce special lubricating fluids. Exercise increases joint lubrication to reduce joint friction and control painful inflammation. 

Supports joint function

Arthritis is a major source of disability and limited activity. Added lubrication reduces stiffness that can lead to mobility problems, so you can continue to enjoy your regular activities. 

Reduces the risks of depression and anxiety

Dealing with chronic pain can take a toll on your emotional health, increasing your risks of depression and anxiety. Regular exercise manages pain more effectively while also releasing “feel-good” chemicals that help boost your mood and ability to cope. Regular physical activity also improves your sleep, another factor in keeping your spirits up.

Keeps extra pounds at bay

Finally, being physically active helps you manage your weight, an important factor in reducing arthritis symptoms in your weight-bearing joints. When you shed extra pounds, you also reduce strain on those joints, decreasing joint wear-and-tear and the painful inflammation.

Know your limits

Exercise offers many benefits, but it’s essential to know your limits. Pay attention to your body and rest if your joint pain worsens. Choose low-impact exercises, like walking, swimming, or yoga classes designed for people with arthritis. And, of course, always consult with our team before beginning any exercise program to ensure it’s the right choice for you.

To learn more about managing arthritis symptoms safely and effectively, call 934-203-8941 or request an appointment online with the team at Health Meets Wellness today.