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Joint Efforts-Exercise and Arthritis:
What Caregivers Need to Know

By Sean M. Kenny

(Page 2 of 2)

Exercise protocols that have proved beneficial for managing arthritis have been stretching and range-of-motion exercises. The aim of range-of-motion exercise is to move a joint as far as comfortable and then stretch it a little more. This helps maintain joint mobility along with improving joint function. Range of motion work also helps to minimize joint pain. "Use it or lose it" certainly applies here. Performing light stretches, even several times per day, is acceptable and beneficial with most patients.

Low-impact exercises such as walking, bicycling and swimming also have their place in arthritis programming. As mentioned earlier, recent studies have shown low-impact activities aid greatly in this population. The benefits of this cardiovascular work include: strengthening the heart, lungs, weight management, and reducing stress to name only a few. Aim for 30 minutes of low-impact activity done at a comfortable pace. This can be done every day and even broken down into three, ten-minute sessions in the beginning.

Finally, strengthening exercises help to increase muscle and connective tissue strength, stabilize joints, and improve overall tone. Strength training can come in the form of weights, elastic bands or simply one's body weight against gravity. Resistance training is also a key component for increasing bone density, which is of special concern to women. Strength training should only be performed every other day, allowing a day of rest in between.

By incorporating exercise and activity into part of the treatment plan for people with arthritis, successful pain management, conditioning and an enhanced lifestyle can become possible.


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