Spring into action

10 March 2020
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Moving more can help improve your arthritis symptoms. Working out helps to keep your joints supple and reduces the pain of osteoarthritis. It doesn’t have to be a chore; exercise can be sociable and it can boost your mood. Read more about exercise and how it can help you manage your pain. 

“Exercise guidelines are 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise (swimming, aerobics, walking, cycling) and strengthening exercises two days a week, such as yoga,” says Chris Worsfold, physiotherapist at The Tonbridge Clinic in Kent, and visiting lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire. “It is the frequency and intensity that are important to get the most out of exercise.”

Gentle, low-impact aerobic exercise, soothing stretches and light weights are the way forward, if you can manage it. 

There is a lot of evidence of the pain-relieving effects of exercise. It is the best medicine for most arthritis related problems.

Chris Worsfold

So, now the weather is improving, make it your mission to get out there and move more, even if you don’t feel like it at first. Take small steps and build it up, and before long you will get into the exercise habit. Here are some ideas to help.

Swimming

Why do it

“It’s excellent for targeting shoulder and neck arthritis, to loosen the joints and strengthen the muscles, and great for maintaining mobility in hip arthritis,” says Worsfold. Do whichever stroke is most comfortable for you. In addition, some weight-bearing exercise is needed to help keep bones strong. Read Charles' story and how swimming has helped him to do what he loves.

The evidence

A study carried out by the University of Texas showed that people with osteoarthritis who took part in three months of swimming – 45 minutes a day, three times a week – had significant reductions in joint pain, stiffness and physical limitation, accompanied by increased quality of life.

Aqua aerobics

Why do it

“This is a really good exercise for strengthening the legs and lower-back area,” says Worsfold.

The evidence

A Cochrane Review of 13 trials that included 1,190 patients with knee or hip osteoarthritis in the US found aquatic exercise may help improve pain and function.

Walking with friends

Why do it

“We have evolved to walk or run seven miles a day,” says Worsfold. “This is what the body was designed for. It’s a great way to strengthen the hips, knees and low back area. Recent research also shows that running does not lead to increased knee arthritis. Motion is lotion!”

The evidence

Walking for just 45 minutes a week can help stave off the pain of arthritis in older adults, according to new research.

A study showed that older people needed only a third of the exercise previously recommended to help prevent the arthritis from getting worse.

The Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, in the US, said that lower levels of moderate exercise were still highly beneficial.

Cycling

Why do it

“This is excellent to strengthen the hips, knees and calves,” says Worsfold. “It’s probably a good idea to start with cycling if pain is more of a problem for you and restricting your mobility, as this is a non-impact form of exercise.”

The evidence

The same study carried out by the University of Texas on the benefits of swimming also surveyed people with osteoarthritis who took part in three months of cycling, 45 minutes a day, three times a week.

They also had significant reductions in joint pain, stiffness and physical limitation, together with increases in quality of life. Read our cycling top tips.

Yoga

Why do it

“This is a great way to maintain mobility of the entire body, but I would recommend pairing yoga or Pilates with at least two hours a week of aerobic exercise from the above list, so you are combining moderate intensity with strengthening exercise,” says Worsfold.

The evidence

Sharon Kolasinski, MD, a professor of clinical medicine and a rheumatologist at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, studied the effects of yoga on people with knee osteoarthritis.

Subjects taking 90-minute, modified Iyengar yoga classes once a week for eight weeks reported significant reductions in pain and improvements in physical function, as well as noticeable improvements in joint stiffness.

This article is from our Spring edition of Inspire magazine. Read more from our Inspire magazine here.

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