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Stay active and exercise - arthritis

Arthritis - exercise; Arthritis - activity

When you have arthritis, being active is good for your overall health and sense of well-being.

Exercise keeps your muscles strong and increases your range of motion. (This is how much you can bend and flex your joints). Tired, weak muscles add to the pain and stiffness of arthritis.

Staying Active When You Have Osteoarthritis

  • Exercise can make arthritis worse.

     

    A. True

     

    B. False

     

    C. Maybe

    Correct Answer
    The correct answer is maybe. Getting regular exercise of the right kind is one of the ways to manage your osteoarthritis (OA). But some types of exercise can worsen your symptoms. Talk to your doctor or physical therapist about what kinds of exercises might work best for you and the right way to do them.
  • Getting regular exercise can do which of the following?

     

    A. Improve your mood

     

    B. Keep your joints flexible

     

    C. Keep muscles stronger

     

    D. B and C

     

    E. All of the above

    Correct Answer
    The correct answer is all of the above. Being active is good for your overall health and sense of well-being. People with arthritis who are active feel better than those who aren't. Getting regular exercise can also help improve blood flow, strengthen your heart, and help you maintain a healthy weight.
  • Which type of exercise is best for people with OA?

     

    A. Strength training exercises

     

    B. Water exercises

     

    C. Range-of-motion exercises

     

    D. Balance exercises

     

    E. All of the above

    Correct Answer
    The correct answer is all of the above. Water exercises may be the best exercise for your arthritic joints. Walk on smooth, even surfaces, such as the sidewalks near your home or inside a shopping mall. Learn gentle exercises that will increase your range of motion and strengthen the muscles around your joints.
  • How much moderate aerobic exercise should you get each week?

     

    A. None

     

    B. 60 minutes

     

    C. 120 minutes

     

    D. 150 minutes

    Correct Answer
    The correct answer is 150 minutes. While this is a good goal to aim for, it may not always be possible if you are having symptoms. You may have good days and bad days, so pay attention to your body. Some weeks you may have to do less. Try walking, swimming, yoga, or Tai Chi. If you're not sure what to try, ask your health care provider.
  • Strength training exercises aren't important for people with OA.

     

    A. True

     

    B. False

    Correct Answer
    The correct answer is false. Tired, weak muscles add to the pain or stiffness that arthritis causes. Stronger muscles also help you with balance. This helps prevent falls. Being stronger can also help you lose weight, sleep better, and give you more energy. Ask your doctor to recommend an exercise for you.
  • Balance exercises can help if you:

     

    A. Have trouble walking

     

    B. Are prone to falling

     

    C. Are afraid of falling

     

    D. All of the above

    Correct Answer
    The correct answer is all of the above. For the most benefit from balance exercises, try to do them at least three times a week. To help improve your balance, try tai chi, walking backwards, or standing on one foot. A physical therapist can help you learn the best exercises.
  • Bicycling is a good exercise for people with OA.

     

    A. True

     

    B. False

     

    C. Maybe

    Correct Answer
    The correct answer is maybe. While cycling is low impact, if you have severe arthritis, using a bike may speed up damage to the cartilage and bone in your knee. Ask your health care provider if you can use a stationary bike. 
  • How often should you add more time to your workout?

     

    A. Each week

     

    B. Every two weeks

     

    C. Every three to four weeks

     

    D. As often as you want

    Correct Answer
    The correct answer is every three to four weeks. People with arthritis often need three to four weeks to adjust to a new activity level. Increase your activity in small amounts, about 10 minutes at a time, and let your body adjust to the new amount of time before doing more.
  • If you're having a bad day, it's best to skip exercising.

     

    A. True

     

    B. False

    Correct Answer
    The correct answer is false. While there may be days when you can't exercise, first try to change your activity. Cut back on the time or number of days, or try a different exercise. Taking acetaminophen (Tylenol) or another pain pill before exercising is okay. But don't overdo it, because the medicine may mask pain.
  • You should stop exercising and see your doctor if:

     

    A. You have pain that is sharp or constant

     

    B. You have pain that lasts longer than two hours after exercise

     

    C. You have pain that makes you limp

     

    D. Your pain does not get better with rest or medicine

     

    E. Your swelling is severe or your joints are red

     

    F. Any of the above

    Correct Answer
    The correct answer is any of the above. Having a small amount of pain or swelling after exercise is normal. But if you have any of these symptoms, stop exercising and see your doctor right away.

Choose From These Activities

Stronger muscles also help you with balance to prevent falls. Being stronger can give you more energy, and help you lose weight and sleep better.

If you will be having surgery, exercising can help you stay strong, which will speed up your recovery. Water exercises may be the best exercise for your arthritis. Swimming laps, water aerobics, or even just walking in the shallow end of a pool all make the muscles around your spine and legs stronger.

Ask your health care provider if you can use a stationary bike. Be aware that if you have arthritis of the hip or knee cap, biking can worsen your symptoms.

If you are not able to do water exercises or use a stationary bike, try walking, as long as it does not cause too much pain. Walk on smooth, even surfaces, such as the sidewalks near your home or inside a shopping mall.

Ask your physical therapist or doctor to show you gentle exercises that will increase your range of motion and strengthen the muscles around your knees.

Be Careful

As long as you do not overdo it, staying active and getting exercise will not make your arthritis get worse faster.

Taking acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) or another pain medicine before you exercise is OK. But do not overdo your exercise because you took the medicine.

If exercise causes your pain to worsen, try cutting back on how long or how hard you exercise the next time.

References

Felson DT. Treatment of osteoarthritis. In: Firestein GS, Budd RC, Gabriel SE, McInnes IB, O'Dell JR, eds. Kelly and Firestein's Textbook of Rheumatology. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 100.

Iversen MD. Introduction to physical medicine, physical therapy, and rehabilitation. In: Firestein GS, Budd RC, Gabriel SE, McInnes IB, O'Dell JR, eds. Kelly and Firestein's Textbook of Rheumatology. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 38.

  • Aging and exercise

    Aging and exercise - illustration

    Exercise, such as weightlifting, helps build muscle that is usually lost with age and puts stress on bones which helps keep them strong and healthy.

    Aging and exercise

    illustration

    • Aging and exercise

      Aging and exercise - illustration

      Exercise, such as weightlifting, helps build muscle that is usually lost with age and puts stress on bones which helps keep them strong and healthy.

      Aging and exercise

      illustration

    A Closer Look

     

    Self Care

     

     

    Review Date: 9/7/2017

    Reviewed By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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