Strength training is good for just about everyone. It's especially beneficial for people with arthritis. When properly done as part of a larger exercise program, strength training helps them support and protect joints, not to mention ease pain, stiffness, and possibly swelling. Yet, the thought of starting a weight training program can be daunting to many arthritis sufferers.
If you have arthritis and want to incorporate strength training into your health routine, these tips can help you get started.
- Work with a physiatrist, physical therapist, or certified personal trainer who has experience working with people who have arthritis to design and adapt exercises that will work for you. Your goal should be to include strength training, flexibility activities that enhance range of motion, and aerobic activities that avoid further stress on joints (such as water exercise or the use of elliptical machines).
- Schedule workouts for times of the day when you are least likely to suffer from inflammation and pain. Avoid exercising when stiffness is at its worst.
- If you have rheumatoid arthritis or another form of inflammatory arthritis, it's important to warm up using gentle stretches before beginning a strength training session. Remember to use slow movements during your warmup, and gradually extend your range of motion.
- If you have rheumatoid arthritis, balance rest and exercise carefully. Generally, you should avoid doing strength training with actively inflamed joints, at least until the inflammation eases. In some cases, water workouts may be a better choice than strength training.
- Exercise within a comfortable range of motion. If an exercise or movement causes significant pain, stop doing it! Discuss your options with a trainer or physical therapist.
For more information on the benefits of strength training, buy Strength and Power Training, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.