Do you have a bone to pick with your joints? The growing pains associated with maturing joints can be downright discouraging. Maybe you used to run marathons, play tennis for hours, and effortlessly chase after your children. But, suddenly, such simple tasks as climbing the stairs cause stiff, arthritic joints to ache.
While avoiding exercise entirely feels like the obvious choice, working out is some of the best medicine for arthritis sufferers. High-impact exercises such as running, jumping rope, or playing sports that require quick lateral movements, such as basketball or tennis, should be avoided. Instead, aim for low-impact cardiovascular exercises, such as using an elliptical (happy hips are found at a 0-0.5 elevation setting), swimming, walking and biking.
Add these three exercises into your workout routine to improve the range of motion and strengthen the muscles supporting arthritic joints.
Note: Always consult with your physician before starting a new exercise routine.
Stability ball wall squats
The knees and hips experience a lot of wear and tear. Over time, cartilage begins to deteriorate, leading to osteoarthritis, and being inactive further exacerbates the pain. Implementing functional movements, such as stability ball squats, can help bolster the muscles supporting the hips and knees.
- Position the ball in between the midsection of your back and the wall. With your feet about shoulder-width apart, take a large step forward.
- Keeping your body weight in your heels, bend at the knees and slowly slide down the wall with your stability ball. Continue to lower your body until you’ve reached a squat position and feel your hamstrings, quads and glutes activated. Make sure that your knees are in line with your toes. For safety, avoid deep bends (anything below a 90-degree angle). Hold for 30-45 seconds.
Leg raises engage the quadriceps 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 the ground, and avoid locking the knee joint. Tighten your quadriceps 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 two breaths 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-anywhere hand exercises to help reduce the pain of 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 right arm in front of your body with the palm facing down. Using your left hand, lightly pull up on the right hand to stretch the wrist. Hold for three to five 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 five seconds. 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 two seconds per finger then switch hands.
For best results, practice these exercises several times throughout the week.
Ashley B. Greenblatt is a certified personal trainer and wellness coach. To learn more, visit ashleyblakefitness.com.