Guest Post by Michele Teter
Rheumatoid arthritis doesnâ€™t have to prevent senior citizens from staying healthy and active with a regular fitness routine. The key is to stick to low-impact exercises â€” gentle weight training, light aerobics or arthritis-friendly yoga â€” and to give your joints time off to recover during an arthritic flare-up.
Below, youâ€™ll find simple exercises that foster flexibility and strengthen your muscles for greater mobility and endurance.
When most people hear the term â€œyogaâ€ they imagine pretzel-like contortions and tricky balancing acts. Several yoga poses, or â€œasanas,â€ involve minimal movement, but still improve balance and boost energy when done just a few times a week.
Online videos are a helpful resource, and classes are a great way to get individualized attention and make new friends. Many studios offer gentle yoga sessions tailored to stretch muscles with minimal strain. Long-term benefits range from fewer arthritis symptoms, to improved mental clarity and reduced stress.
Waterâ€™s natural therapeutic effects are no secret. Former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had a home in Warm Springs, Georgia, where naturally heated pools helped treat his polio. Take a dip in a heated pool or natural hot springs to soothe arthritic joints, or enroll in a water aerobics class to strengthen muscles via light cardiovascular routines and repetitive movements. Recovery time is often minimal after hydrotherapy regimens because the exercises are low impact.
For a low-cost alternative to classes or personal training, you just need to step outside. A little fresh air goes a long way, and itâ€™s easy to integrate a 30-minute walk around the block into your fitness plan.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, seniors can benefit from walking for a handful of days each week. Circulation and bone density can improve if you maintain a brisk, but comfortable speed. Talk to your physician if youâ€™re not sure whether a short stroll or a light aerobic hike suits your wellness needs. Neighborhoods often have local parks that offer a scenic setting while you work to keep your knee and elbow joints flexible.
Light and easy stretches
Some of the simplest arthritis-friendly exercises can be done in your home. Seated stretches involve minimal impact and exertion, so theyâ€™re ideal for patients with limited mobility, or who are confined to a wheelchair.
Raise your arms over your head as far as is comfortable and you should feel an increase in blood flow. Easy hand stretches treat joint pain in knuckles and fingers associated with arthritis.
The Arthritis Foundation provides step-by-step stretching videos, but be sure to consult your physician to find out whatâ€™s best. If movement is compromised due to chronic pain or an injury, you can use a resistance band to facilitate stretching.
There are many ways to stay fit and minimize arthritis pain, and your doctor or fitness coach can help steer you in the right direction. Once you embark on your wellness journey, remember to stay hydrated. Donâ€™t push yourself if youâ€™re feeling too much pain, and separate your workout into manageable 10-minute intervals if you need a break.
Michele Teter is a founder of Alliance Homecare and now works as the Director of Patient Services focusing on providing leading healthcare services.