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Arthritis and Exercise Series: Part 2
Did you know that by age 45 most of us have, or will be, dealing with some level of osteoarthritis in at least one if not several joints?
Numerous articles are now blaming the years of stress caused by … (Are you ready for this?) -AEROBIC EXERCISE-
How’s that for a Boomerang Effect? Could we baby-boomers have overlooked the chance that in our mad quest to condition our heart, keep our body fat low and our muscle mass high we might have been wearing out our joints? Tell me it isn’t so!
Osteoarthritis is a condition that affects joint cartilage, (the tissue that covers the ends of bones where they meet to form a joint). Healthy cartilage allows bones to glide over one another and absorb the shock of physical movement. In osteoarthritis, the surface layer of cartilage wears away or breaks down. This allows bones to rub together, causing pain, swelling, and loss of range or comfortable motion. Over time, the joint may lose its normal shape, develop bone spurs or have bits of bone or cartilage floating around inside the joint space. This leads to more discomfort and damage.
How do you know if you have Osteoarthritis?
According to NIA (National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases) the following are the warning signs of Osteoarthritis: (http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Osteoarthritis/#warning)
The Warning Signs of Osteoarthritis
• Stiffness in a joint after getting out of bed or sitting for a long time
• Swelling in one or more joints
• Crunching feeling or the sound of bone rubbing on bone
Only about a third of people whose x-rays show evidence of osteoarthritis report pain or other symptoms. For those who experience steady or intermittent pain, it is typically aggravated by activity and relieved by rest.
What is an Aerobic Bouncing Baby-Boomer to do?
First cut yourself a bit of slack. Although you may have spent a bit more time than you should have pounding the pavement or jumping around during the high impact era, you also may have kept your body fat levels down. This can prevent the added joint stress caused by being overweight as well as many other health risk factors. Also, note that those non-exercising baby boomers are more than likely also experiencing age related arthritis without having the exercise related strength, endurance and mobility you have from maintaining a balanced exercise program over the years. You probably look younger and feel better as well. Now that you are giving yourself some exercise credit, let’s talk about a few strategies to reduce the arthritis related issues that does NOT equate to gain.
Below is a list of activity and exercise Do’s and Don’ts for those with arthritis affected joints. Keep in mind that before you start any new exercise program you need to talk to your doctor about all your symptoms, arthritis related or not. You can also see more about specific exercises inside this article Exercise Routines Good for Joint Pain and Arthritis. It may also be helpful to consider taking a daily glucosamine and chondroitin supplement to help keep your joints flexible and support long term overall joint health.
What To Do:
Overall you want to keep your body moving as much as possible. Being stagnant for long periods of time only makes stiff joints feel worse. Your body may not respond best to activity in the morning or early part of the day so plan your training sessions accordingly. Midday or early afternoon seems to work best for a good proportion of people. Also, by adding in some gentle exercise in the evening before bed, you may actually feel less stiff in the morning.
Remind your self to make simple shifts in posture when you’re seated or standing for longer than 15 minutes. Easy things like tilting your head, changing your arm position or stretching out your legs. If your doing something that requires a prolonged repetitive motion, like gardening, computer time, or certain housework activities, pace yourself and take breaks so you don’t overuse the joints you are using.
Choose the right kinds of physical fitness exercise — those that build the muscles around your joints but don't damage the joints themselves. Focus on stretching, range of motion exercises and gradual progressive strength training. Include low-impact aerobic exercise, such as walking, cycling or water exercises, for improving your mood and helping control your weight.
Utilize the 2-hour pain rule after a workout to evaluate the appropriateness of your program progression. The 2-Hour Rule states that if you have more arthritis pain two hours after your training session then you did before, consider cutting back the next time.
What To Avoid:
It is important to remember that although every ‘body’ needs exercise … every exercise may not be right for your body.
If any movement or exercise causes intense or severe pain it should be discontinued immediately. If the pain persists you should seek appropriate medical attention. The good news is that many exercises can be adequately modified to avoid major discomfort by simply reducing the range of motion, load, or amount of repetitions (or exercise duration).
The following list of exercise options are typically not recommended for those experiencing arthritis related joint pain:
Heavy or High repetition resistance training (over 8 to 12 reps per exercises
Ballistic (bouncing) or overly aggressive stretching
Repeating any same movement for too many times without breaks or rests.
With that said… keep in mind that the most harmful option is ‘inactivity’, which can lead to muscle loss and joint instability.
In part 3 we will take a look at a typical workout breakdown that would be ideal for training through arthritis.