Exercise Trends That Are Easy on the Joints
There is little doubt that regular exercise has a positive effect on the body. Staying active will lower your risk of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, depression and osteoporosis. It may even help fight off certain types of cancers such as prostate, breast and colon cancer.
There is a potential downside to exercise that you need to consider, as well, especially if you have osteoarthritis or other forms of joint damage. What impact does your workout have on your joints and what exercises lower that risk?
Does Exercise Damage the Joints?
It’s a myth that all exercise leads to arthritis pain. The fact is patients suffering from arthritis or joint pain generally benefit from physical activity. There is some concern over exercises that jolt joints like running, for example. This type of high impact fitness plan is not right for everyone. That is not a good excuse to avoid exercising, but it may mean that you simply need to shift your focus to something with lower impact to save your joints.
If you are a runner that gets knee pain with every workout, switch to an elliptical trainer. An elliptical trainer is a cross between walking, running and stair climbing. This makes it a practical trade-off for the runner with problematic knees and hips. You get the same basic benefit, but your feet never leave the platform, so there is no jolt as they hit a hard surface.
Working out on an elliptical trainer allows you to diversify your exercise too. A 2002 study conducted by the University of Idaho found that varying the stride length while on an elliptical worked different large muscle groups – building strength and burning more calories.
If you suffer from chronic joint pain in the knees, hips or back, then yoga is an ideal choice. This exercise relies on a series of poses designed to increase flexibility while enhancing muscle strength. It also allows you to set your own personal limits and pace. As your skill improves, so will your tolerance. Over time, you will look for ways to challenge your body, but without stressing your joints. Doing yoga at least twice a week may actually help damaged joints heal, too.
Like yoga, Tai chi is about increasing flexibility, but focuses more on movement. Tai chi uses a series of fluid movements to build strength and coordination. Your focus is on mobility, breathing, balance and full body relaxation. It is an easy discipline to conquer and it allows you to build on your routines to make them more interesting.
When you walk, jog or sprint, your body works against gravity. That pull can take a toll on your joints, especially if they are already stressed. Research shows that working out in the water provides enough resistance to improve flexibility and build strength, but the buoyancy helps to protect your joints.
There is more to water exercise than just swimming laps. Almost any exercise you can do on land, you can do in the water. It is better to work out in the water with a buddy, just in case something goes wrong, though. Look for classes in your community for water aerobics, yoga or even jogging.
Walking is really the perfect form of exercise. It requires no fancy equipment; you do it alone or in a group and its low impact, so it doesn’t stress your joints. The key is to work up to longer walks, so you give your muscles a chance to grow into the routine. Start slow, just 10 minutes a day is enough to get the ball rolling. Work up to longer walks as you get stronger.
Good health is a combination of many different life choices. Making sure you get proper nutrition and plenty of exercise is at the core of it. If you have achy joints, choose exercises that are low impact and build muscle strength to protect them and reap the benefits of being physically active.
Harvard Health Publications, Exercise and Your Joints, September 1, 2009
Prevention, Joint-Friendly Workouts, November 3, 2011, Selene Yeager
WebMD, Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) Exercises Slideshow: Joint-Friendly Fitness Routines, June 28, 2015, David Zelman, MD
Everyday Health, 8 Arthritis-Friendly Exercises, 01/09/12
- Darla Ferrara