Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the United States. If you’re living with the joint pain, stiffness, and inflammation of arthritis, this will not surprise you.
At least 1.5 million Americans suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease in which the body mistakenly attacks its own joints.
Osteoarthritis, on the other hand, is the progressive destruction of joint cartilage due to age and use. Osteoarthritis is the more common type of arthritis.
In either case, the joints of fingers, hips, and knees become painful, stiff and inflamed. It can be hard just to get out of bed in the morning. And without a concerted effort to fight back against the pain, a person’s quality of life can go quickly downhill.
But there are ways to fight back — and one of the most important ones is to keep moving…
Move more — or move less
If you or a loved one are living with arthritis, exercise and physical activity should be a mainstay of your self-care.
According to Lone Peak Physical Therapy, moving does four important things:
- Movement increases the synovial fluid in your joints which is basically acts like an oil that helps the joints move smoother.
- Exercise increases circulation in the body which increases circulation to the joints bringing good oxygen and nutrients to the joints.
- Research shows joint movement activates genes associated with rebuilding cartilage. Dr. John Hardin, a professor of medicine and orthopedic surgery at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City reports exercise triggers a biological process called autophagy, where damaged cells in the joint are broken down and removed.
- Exercise strengthens the muscles, ligaments, and tendons surrounding each joint, resulting in a natural brace for the joints during activity.
It’s not all about boring exercises, though.
Here are ten activities that can help you fight through arthritis pain and add to your health, longevity, and quality of life in other ways, too…
10 activities to try
1. Video games. That’s right! Many video games can help get your brain and your body fit, because they qualify as moderate-intensity exercise, and can improve your range of motion (the measurement of movement around a joint).
2. Tai chi. Dr. Mark Wiley describes tai chi as the healing power of movement and says it’s the perfect exercise for seniors because it is gentle, soft, flowing, slow and it moves the body through its full range of motions. There’s no harsh impact on joints and it can strengthen muscle and bone.
Here’s a video to get you started: Tai Chi stepping for incredible energy and health.
Related: When yoga can be bad for your bones
3. Walk your dog. Your furry friend will give you a good reason to get moving. Walking is a low-impact form of exercise that keeps your joints flexible and your muscles strong.
If you don’t have a dog, you should know that dog owners live longer, healthier lives. It may be time to visit your local shelter!
If pets are not an option, walk with friends.
4. Wash your car. Great for upper body range-of-motion and arm strength, a good car wash burns calories and gets your heart pumping. Just don’t opt for a hose-only approach. Get that rag and bucket out!
5. Make a play date. I’ve got a regular one with the neighborhood kids. They sure get my heart pumping when we play hide and seek! I can also feel my muscles and joints working.
For arthritis in the hands, board games and crafts are a great way to spend the afternoon with your grandkids or other young friends.
6. Clean the house. If you’re not up for the gym, research shows housework is great exercise and can save you from an otherwise sedentary lifestyle. Not only is sitting too much guaranteed to make stiff joints stiffer, but it also leads to obesity and metabolic syndrome.
7. Dancing. No need to sign up for dance class. Make your vacuum, mop or dishrag your dance partner! Chores are more fun with some music and a little dancing, and you get your joints moving and your heart working, too!
You’ve probably heard of super-agers or independent agers. Dancing can help you be one!
8. Gardening. Spring is the perfect time to get outdoors, keep your joints limber and breathe some fresh air… all while tending a small flower or vegetable garden. Here are tips on getting started with different types of gardening. Research shows that people who garden live longer… often to 100!
9. Take the stairs. In addition to working your knee and hip joints, studies have shown that climbing stairs lowers blood pressure, helps control blood sugar and can even keep you cognitively young.
However, if you have osteoarthritis in the knee, you’ll want to opt for another choice on this list.
10 Swimming. This may be the best exercise of all for arthritic joints. The water supports your body weight, making this a zero-impact activity. At the same time, the water offers just enough resistance to make your joints and muscles exert themselves.
Editor’s note: If you’re still looking for relief from chronic pain, you’ve been looking in all the wrong places! Check out Dr. Mark Wiley’s guide, Conquering the Pain: An Alternative Doctor’s Fresh Look at the Newest and Oldest in Alternative Pain Therapies. Click here to get your RISK-FREE copy, and free gifts, today!
- Living with Arthritis: Move More or Move Less? — Lone Peak Physical Therapy
- Exercising With Osteoarthritis — arthritis.org | Arthritis Foundation
- Rheumatoid Arthritis Self-Care — arthritis.org | Arthritis Foundation
- Best Exercises for Rheumatoid Arthritis — arthritis.org | Arthritis Foundation
- The Role of Exergaming in Improving Physical Activity: A Review — Journal of Physical Activity and Health