When it hurts to get out of a chair, running and jumping are probably the last things you would consider doing. In fact, these high-impact movements are often considered risky for arthritic joints; they apply a jolt of force that may lead to pain. But recent research reveals that some impact in some cases may actually be good for joints.
How It May Help
In a 2015 study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, women with mild knee osteoarthritis who did impact movements (like a series of jumps on and off a step) three times a week experienced a 7% increase in knee cartilage quality after a year. These exercises cause cartilage to glide and compress, which may activate receptors that prevent cellular changes that lead to damage.
Other research shows that impact exercises have other benefits as well. “Jumping is also used in many sports, such as tennis, so these movements can help you stay active and keep you from getting hurt,” says physical therapist Andrew Mc-Donnell, at Baylor Scott & White Health in Round Rock, Texas.
Build Up Slowly
But don’t add jumps to your routine too quickly. “It’s important to first build strength in the surrounding muscles, which support and protect the joint,” says Polly DeMille, an exercise physiologist at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. If you’re starting out, stick with low-impact exercises that help build strength – such as walking, biking, swimming, tai chi or light weights – and then slowly add impact.
Once your physician or physical therapist clears you for higher-impact exercises, be sure to use proper form; a personal trainer or physical therapist can show you how. “You should land softly, so that there’s no noise upon impact,” says DeMille.
Start small: 10 to 20 jumps (with both feet off the floor as high as comfortably possible) twice a day. If you feel pain, scale back to a lower-impact exercise.
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