Couple walking 300x200Although arthritis can make physical activity seem painful and difficult, walking has been shown to ease symptoms of the chronic condition.

Arthritis affects more than one in four American adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Although arthritis could make exercise seem like a stretch, walking is a low-stress form of physical activity that can reduce joint pain, increase strength and flexibility, and fight low energy levels.

 

Moderate levels of exercise can go a long way in easing pain and helping maintain a healthy weight, as well as benefit in the following ways:

  • Strengthen muscles around joints
  • Make it easier to sleep at night
  • Maintain bone strength
  • Improve balance

The Arthritis Foundation has a walking program called Walk With Ease, a six-week program aimed at encouraging arthritis sufferers to make walking a safe part of their everyday life. The program is available as either a community-based, instructor-led class that meets a few times each week or set up as an individual plan.

Both versions use the Walk With Ease workbook to guide participants through self-assessments, plans for setting goals, activity logs and strategies for symptom management.

 

Before starting any fitness program, individuals should check with their physician about which exercises will maximize pain relief with the least amount of pain aggravation. They may recommend the following types of exercise:

  1. Range-of-motion: These movements lessen stiffness and provide a fuller range of movements on an everyday basis. Exercises include raising arms and rolling shoulders.
  2. Aerobic: Exercises that improve cardiovascular health, aid in weight control and provide more energy include swimming and bicycling, in addition to walking. Ideally, an individual can work up to getting 150 minutes of aerobic exercise each week to maximize the benefits.
  3. Strength: Weight training can build stronger muscles to protect and support aching joints. It’s best to avoid exercising the same muscle groups on consecutive days and rest a day or two between workouts.

Those with arthritis should remember five tips as they begin an exercise routine: go slowly; practice low-impact movements; move gently; apply heat beforehand to relax joints, and ice afterward to reduce swelling.  

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