If you struggle with joint pain, the last thing you may want to think about is exercise – but you absolutely should. In fact, exercise has been called the secret to joint pain relief,[i] because it breaks the tendency to favor your joints and avoid movement.
Such avoidance will ultimately make your pain worse and weaken your body (your muscles, your lungs, your heart – all will be negatively impacted by a lack of regular physical activity). Plus, lack of exercise may increase your risk of weight gain, and excess weight will also increase joint deterioration and pain.
So, if you have joint pain exercise is a must – but there are some important considerations you should know.
7 Top Rules to Know About Exercise and Joint Pain
7. Seek Professional Advice to Get Started
Depending on your severity of joint pain, there may be certain exercises that are not safe for you … and there may be others that are ideal. It’s a good idea to consult with a personal trainer and/or a physical therapist who can help you create a safe exercise plan.
6. Variety is Key
Exercising with joint pain is no different from any exercise program in that varying your activities will ensure your muscles stay challenged and you get the most comprehensive benefits. Activities such as stretching, tai chi and yoga can help to gently increase your flexibility and maintain normal joint movement while relieving stiffness. Pilates (and yoga) are excellent to build your core muscles while bicycling can help build your stamina.
5. Don’t Skip the Cardio
Regular aerobic exercise has been shown to help reduce joint pain and improve joint function,[ii] but many skip this form of exercise for fear that it will only stress their joints further. You may need to stick with lower-impact forms of cardio, like walking, swimming, water aerobics or bicycling, but don’t skip it entirely.
4. Be Sure You’re Doing Strength Training
It’s important to include strength training s in your workout routine, as this will help you to build the muscles supporting your joints, ultimately helping to lessen pain and improve function. You can use free weights, machines or even your own body weight to do strength training. For instance, simple body-weight activities such as squats can help you to increase your strength and boost your ability to perform daily movements, such as climbing stairs.
3. Warm Up Correctly
Start gradually and warm up using range-of-motion exercises or dynamic stretches, which mimic the exercise you’re planning to do (such as walking lunges). You can also apply a heating pad with far-infrared rays (FIR) prior to your workout to help your joints and muscles to relax, thereby relieving pain. You should start very slow and work up your intensity over time.
2. Use Ice Afterward
Icing your joints after a workout can help to reduce any swelling and keep pain to a minimum.
1. It Shouldn’t be Painful
It’s important to challenge yourself physically to get the most benefits from exercise, but you’ll want to avoid activities that cause actual pain, or definitely any pain that is worse than what you normally experience. This is where a professional can help you learn the best exercises to build strength and stamina without exacerbating pain. While some soreness after exercise is to be expected, if your pain lasts longer than two hours you may need to make your exercise program less strenuous.
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