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What is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a common chronic disorder of the joints and mainly affects older people. In normal joints, cartilage covers the surface of the joint and helps to absorb shock and allows for smooth movement. Arthritis gradually wears down that cartilage until there is none left and the joint bones are rubbing together.The most common joints affected by arthritis are hips, knees, big toes, spine and hands.

 

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How can exercise help?

Research shows that exercise can help people with a wide range of arthritic severity and pain. Exercise is as effective in relieving symptoms as pain medication and anti-inflammatory drugs, but has fewer side effects.

Exercise can help to:

  • Reduce pain and fatigue
  • Increase muscle strength
  • Improve the range of joint movement
  • Improve balance
  • Prevent loss of muscle fibers
  • Improve physical function
  • Improve wellbeing
  • Reduce stiffness and swelling in joints

 

 

What type of exercise is best?

Any exercise should take into account your age, current range of joint movement, other health conditions and personal preference. Focus on low-intensity and low-duration exercise if you are just starting an exercise program.

Choose a type of exercise that you enjoy and that can be easily incorporated into your daily life.

Strength training- The thigh, hip and calf muscles, which are important for daily function, are often weak in people with arthritis. Resistance can be applied with weights, elastic tubing or body weight. Start lightly completing 2-5 repetitions using pain threshold as an index of intensity, as you improve gradually increase to 10-12 repetitions of an exercise.

Aerobic exercise – can be done by yourself, with a friend or as part of a group. Activities may include walking, cycling, using a rowing machine or a seated stepper. High-impact exercises such as jogging should be avoided because it places high loading on your joints.

Aquatic (water) exercise – can be done by yourself or in a class or group. People who are overweight or those with severe arthritis may find aquatic exercise useful, as the weighlessness minimises the load on your joints.

Other types of exercises – tai chi, balance exercises and stretching will improve flexibility and the range of motion in your joints. Always stretch within a pain-free range of motion.

 

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Things to remember

If you have arthritis and you’re thinking about incorporating exercise into your daily life, it’s recommended you consult an Accredited Exercise Physiologist for a tailored exercise plan.

As an overview:

  • Avoid exercise during an arthritic flare up.
  • Aim to exercise 4 to 5 times a week for at lease 30 minutes.
  • You may feel a little bit of soreness in the arthritic joint during exercise – this is normal and does not mean your arthritis is getting worse. However, if you experience significant pain or swelling during or after exercise then you may need to change your exercise program.
  • The benefits of exercise are lost if you stop; use strategies that will help you continue like; keeping a log book, set achievable goals, ask for support from a partner, family or friends, and vary your exercise program.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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