While stretching is an important part of any workout, fitness studios known as stretching gyms make it the focus. Stretching instructors help lengthen and loosen muscles, either working one-on-one with clients and physically adding gentle pressure to deepen stretches, or by guiding a class through a series of stretches with props, such as foam rollers and bands.
“There’s no question that stretching benefits people with arthritis,” says Cory Feger, a physical therapist in Louisville, Kentucky. “It improves range of motion, lubricates joints and increases blood flow to muscles.” But are these new gyms and classes safe for people with arthritis? While they can be useful, Feger recommends proceeding with caution. Here’s how:
- ASK INSTRUCTORS ABOUT THEIR QUALIFICATIONS. What’s their background and experience working with people who have arthritis? Many instructors are personal trainers, massage therapists or yoga instructors but may not have experience with arthritis or chronic pain patients.
- ALWAYS WARM UP FIRST. This allows deeper stretches for a longer period of time and decreases the risk of injury. Get moving with light exercise, such as walking. Or do dynamic stretches, such as leg swings and arm circles, which prepare your body for specific movements.
- GO AT YOUR OWN PACE. Don’t try to keep up with everyone else in a class. “You don’t want to overdo it,” says Julie Jasontek, a physical therapist and supervisor of rehabilitation services at Mercy Health in Cincinnati. This may lead to an injury, such as a strained muscle.
- AVOID BOUNCING. To lengthen muscle fibers and increase flexibility, hold each stretch for 10 to 30 seconds, then release and repeat. These are called static stretches.
- DO STATIC STRETCHES AFTER WORKING OUT. After exercise, muscles are warmed up. Stretching also boosts circulation. As part of a cooldown, it also lowers your heart rate, which may help aid recovery.
- DON’T PUSH TOO HARD. Mild discomfort is normal, but stop if you feel a sharp or intense pain.
- MAKE IT A REGULAR HABIT. To increase flexibility, stretch at least five times a week.
Buying into some commonly held fitness beliefs may keep you from making the most of your workouts – or even lead to injury. Experts debunk six persistent myths. Continue reading 6 Fitness Myths Busted
Want to get more active? Use a pedometer. Results of a 21-week study reported in Arthritis Research and Care in 2017, found pedometers helped patients with rheumatoid arthritis walk about 1,500 more steps a day. Continue reading Add a Pedometer to Your Walking Routine
Mini-trampoline classes, also called “rebounding,” have gotten buzz lately. During class, each person jumps and runs in place, often to music, on his own trampoline. Fans say these fast-paced workouts torch calories and strengthen muscles with less impact than on a hard surface, says physical therapist Scott Euype, education director at Cleveland Clinic’s Rehabilitation & Sports Therapy.
However, you should be cautious before hopping on this bandwagon. If you jump too high or fast, the force may harm an already inflamed or damaged joint. Plus, “the landing surface is unstable, so you could turn an ankle or hurt your knee,” says Mary Ann Wilmarth, owner of Back2Back Physical Therapy in Andover, Massachusetts, and a spokesperson for the American Physical Therapy Association. Check with your doctor before you try rebounding. (Avoid it if you’ve had joint replacement in your feet, ankles, knees or hips unless your doctor has given the OK.)
Continue reading Are Trampoline Workouts Safe with Arthritis?
Keep your body moving if you have arthritis. Exercise can reduce joint pain and stiffness as well as improve strength and balance.
But what type of exercise is best? An elliptical trainer is a good option. This minimal weight-bearing stationary exercise machine mimics walking with a gliding motion.
“The elliptical machine can be a beneficial form of exercise for people with knee and hip arthritis because it provides both strengthening and cardiovascular benefits while exerting less force on the joints,” says Maura Daly Iversen, DPT, MPH, a spokesperson for the American Physical Therapy Association and Associate Dean of Clinical Education, Rehabilitation, and New Initiatives at Northeastern University in Boston.
Continue reading Elliptical Machines Go Easy on Your Joints
Exercise can help ease arthritis pain, but how much do you really know about the ins and outs of working out? Read these questions and answers and test your fitness IQ! Continue reading What’s Your Fitness IQ?
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.
Continue reading Get the Rewards of Yoga Without the Risks
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:
Continue reading Arthritis Workout Moves On-the-Go
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.
Continue reading Don’t Let Knee or Hip Pain Make You Unsteady
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.”
Continue reading Mix Up Your Arthritis Workout With Hula Hooping