Exercise is important for everyone, but if you have arthritis, it is considered essential.
To obtain the maximum benefit from an exercise program:
- Be consistent. Exercise should be performed daily. In order to see results and obtain full benefits from exercise, it cannot be done sporadically.
- Build up gradually. The best exercise program is one which begins at a low intensity and builds up gradually as symptoms permit. Too much exercise, especially initially, can worsen symptoms.
- Exercise when symptoms are least distressing. The best time to exercise is when pain and stiffness are at a minimum. Some people with arthritis prefer exercising after morning stiffness subsides. Others dislike afternoon exercise sessions because they grow more tired as the day progresses. It’s a matter of personal preference.
- Do not overdo. Many strengthening and range-of-motion exercise programs suggest performing the exercises in sets of three to 10 repetitions, with each set repeated one to two times. There is no set number that works for everyone. The number of repetitions is dependent on how well you feel. Too much activity, especially during a flare, can aggravate or worsen symptoms.
- Listen to body signals. A certain amount of discomfort during exercise is acceptable and expected. If pain lasts two hours or more after exercise, the body is signaling that the exercise session was too strenuous. Fewer repetitions should be performed until symptoms subside.
- If the joint feels hot, avoid exercise. Exercise can worsen swollen, tender, or warm joints. Modify your activity until arthritis symptoms are once again under control.
- Set realistic goals. Begin the exercise program with reasonable goals and the determination to gradually increase over time. Too much, too soon can be harmful.
- Smooth, steady rhythm. Exercising and breathing should be coordinated. Avoid bouncing or jerky motions which can add stress to joints. Exercise in a smooth, steady rhythm and relax between repetitions.
- Alternate rest with activity. While activity is important in maintaining healthy joints, so is getting the appropriate amount of rest.