From easing pain to boosting flexibility, yoga has a long list of benefits for people with arthritis.
“Yoga is as safe as walking when it’s done properly,” says Steffany Moonaz, PhD, founder of Yoga for Arthritis and a research director at Maryland University of Integrative Health.
However, many people do poses incorrectly or without proper support. In fact, a recent study revealed that nearly 11 percent of people who did yoga experienced pain at some point as a result, and 1 in 5 said yoga made an existing injury worse. Stay safe with these simple tips.
You might exercise to improve function, gain strength or slim down. Whatever your reason, “setting a goal can give you focus, confidence and motivation,” says Hannah J. Bennett, a physical therapist with Baylor Scott & White Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation in Round Rock, Texas.
But how can you tell if your workouts are working? The key is making realistic and specific milestones. “Check your progress regularly,” says Bennett. Seeing results can provide motivation – or signal that it’s time to switch things up. Here are four common fitness goals and how to track them.
Whether by plane, train or car, travel can be a pain – literally. Especially if you have inflammatory arthritis or osteoarthritis. Less oxygen and nutrients reach your joints, which contributes to pain and stiffness. “Sitting for long stretches slows your circulation,” says Lisa M. Higginbotham, an occupational therapist and clinical rehab manager at a Cleveland Clinic hospital in Ohio.
Sluggish circulation also raises the risk for swelling and potentially dangerous blood clots, she adds. Moving at least every hour keeps joints mobile. Plus, “contracting your muscles pumps blood back to the heart,” says Eric Robertson, PT, director of Kaiser Permanente Northern California Graduate Physical Therapy Education. These moves done while seated can also help:
Research shows that people with knee pain have a 25% greater risk of falling than people without pain. It’s also been found that one in three older adults falls each year. Falls can result in severe injuries, such as hip fractures.
To reduce your risk of falling, improve your balance with exercises that build strength and flexibility, says rheumatologist Rob Keenan, MD, at Duke Medicine in Durham, North Carolina. Improving your response time – that is, how quickly you react to stop yourself from falling – also can help, explains Alexander Aruin, PhD, a professor of physical therapy and bioengineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Here are four ways to improve your balance and response time.
The popular childhood pastime hula hooping is back as a hot fitness trend. The workouts use heavier hoops – weighing one to five pounds – in fun routines set to music, says Joanne Wu, MD, a physical rehabilitation physician at Unity Spine Center in Rochester, New York, and owner of a wellness consulting company.
Although people with balance disorders shouldn’t try hula-hooping, the exercise is a gentle way to strengthen the core. In fact, Dr. Wu recommends it for her spine patients. “Hooping itself is a low-impact exercise that’s gentle on the joints,” says Dr. Wu. “It builds balance and strength, especially in the core and legs.”
“Building muscle supports and protects joints, which can increase mobility and reduce stiffness and soreness,” says Stanley Wainapel, MD, at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. Research in The Journal of Rheumatology found that people with knee arthritis experienced 42% less pain and 44% more physical function after four months of strength training. Get started with one of these, watch videos and use Your Exercise Solution to learn about exercise modifications specific to your needs.
If your hip or knee arthritis makes you feel unsteady and worry that you’ll fall, your instinct probably is to avoid risks. You might not feel confident walking far or doing much physical activity. But to become steadier and reduce your risk of falling, you have to overcome those worries and be more active – safely.
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.
Science shows that balance training has big benefits for people with arthritis and related conditions.