Exercises to Help Ease Arthritic Joints
Do you have a bone to pick with your joints? The growing pains associated with maturing joints can be downright discouraging. You used to run marathons, play tennis for hours and effortlessly chase after your children, but suddenly simple tasks like climbing the stairs cause stiff, arthritic joints to ache.
While avoiding exercise entirely feels like the obvious choice, working out is the best medicine for arthritis sufferers. High-impact exercises like running, jumping rope or playing sports that require quick lateral movements, like basketball or tennis, should be avoided. Instead, aim for low-impact activities that improve the joint’s range of motion and strengthen the muscles supporting the joint.
Good choices for low-impact cardiovascular exercises include: Ellipticals (happy hips are found at a 0 - .5 elevation setting), swimming, walking and biking. If you have arthritis, consult with your physician prior to starting a new exercise routine.
Stability Ball Wall Squats
Throughout our lives, the knees and hips experience a lot of wear and tear. Over time cartilage begins to deteriorate, leading to osteoarthritis. Being inactive further exacerbates the pain related to osteoarthritis. Implementing functional movements, like stability ball squats, can help bolster the muscles supporting the hips and knees.
Position the ball at the midsection of your back and face away from the wall. With your feet about shoulder-width apart, take a large step forward. Check the positioning of your legs to ensure that the knees are inline with the toes.
Keeping your bodyweight in your heels, bend at the knees and slowly slide down the wall with your stability ball. Continue to lower your body until you begin to feel the hamstrings, quads and glutes working. For safety, avoid deep bends (anything below a 90 degree angle). Hold for 30-45 seconds.
Low-impact exercises are ideal for arthritic joints. Leg raises engage the quadricep and core muscles, and help open tight hip flexors. This exercise moves your legs through their natural range of motion, which sustains joint flexibility and mobility.
Start in a supine position with your left leg bent and your right leg extended. Do not allow your lower back to pop off of the ground and avoid locking the knee joint. Tighten your quadricep muscle by pointing your toes up and bending your ankle at a 90 degree angle.
In a controlled motion, lift the right leg from the floor bringing it to the height of the left knee. Hold for 2 counts then slowly lower the leg until it is about an inch from the floor. Continue for 12-15 repetitions then repeat on the opposite leg.
When we think of fitness, hand exercises don’t usually come to mind. Yet, finger dexterity and mobility are necessary for many daily functions. Hand exercises can ease arthritic discomfort by keeping the ligaments and tissues flexible. Practice these convenient, do-it-anywhere hand exercises to help reduce the discomfort associated with arthritic hands:
Fist: Straighten and spread your fingers then gently close them into a fist with your thumb resting on the outside of your hand. Do not squeeze. Release and open your hands. Continue for 12-15 repetitions on each hand.
Wrist Bend: Extend your left arm in front of your body with the palm facing down. Using your right hand, lightly press up on the left hand to stretch the wrist. Hold for 3-5 seconds then release. Repeat for 10 repetitions on each side.
O: Straighten the fingers on your right hand then make an ‘O’ shape by curling your fingers in until they touch. Hold for several counts. Repeat 8-10 times on each hand.
Finger Lift: Place your hand flat on a table, palm side down. Starting with your thumb raise each finger. Hold for 1-2 counts per finger then switch hands.
For best results, practice these exercises several times throughout the week.