How to keep active when living with arthritis
The advice for living with arthritis is to keep active. But which sports should you choose?
In a survey from health website patient.info, 64 per cent of healthcare professionals recommended yoga and Pilates for arthritis. Both are gentle, low-impact exercises that strengthen the muscles. This in turn helps to support joints. A good yoga or Pilates teacher will adapt the movements to your condition.
Physical activity can ease the pain and stiffness of arthritis, but doing the exercise in the first place isn’t always that easy. One manageable low-impact sport is golf. Regular golfers stay active thanks to all the walking they do, but there are other advantages too.
A survey by UK and Australian academics found that 90 per cent of golf-playing respondents with osteoarthritis rated their health good, very good or excellent compared with 64 per cent of the general population with the condition. Golfers also reported better mental health, possibly due to the sociable nature of the game.
If a round of golf doesn’t grab you, normal walking brings the same health benefits, including a reduction in the risk of heart disease, diabetes and obesity.
"Nordic walking uses poles to propel you and work your core muscles, but never force a painful joint"
Brisk walking helps to keep joints flexible. Use walking poles if you need to—you might even want to try Nordic walking, which uses poles to propel you forwards and work your core muscles. But never force a painful joint.
With this activity you are literally taking the weight off your feet. The water supports the weight of your body and reduces the strain on joints. It also provides resistance, which helps strengthen your muscles. And, like other sports, it’s good for your general health and wellbeing.
A Korean review of existing research found aquatic exercise reduced pain and joint dysfunction more effectively and improved quality of life more than land-based exercise. Breast stroke is best avoided, though, if you have arthritis in hips or knees. If swimming isn’t for you, there are plenty of other beneficial aquatic activities to choose from, including aqua aerobics classes or aqua walking, which you can do by yourself by simply walking round the pool.
Get outside on your bike and you’ll see improvements to your mental health as well as physical benefits. But a stationary bike is just as good for fitness and for building up muscle around your knees, and you don’t have to worry about the weather or the traffic.
"A 2021 study found that stationary biking actually reduced pain in people with knee osteoarthritis"
A 2021 review of studies by Chinese and Australian researchers found that stationary biking reduced pain and had a positive effect on joint function in people with knee osteoarthritis. Aim to ride for 20 minutes three to five days a week.
Bowls and boules
I bet you didn’t realise the civilised, sedate game of bowls, or boules if you prefer the French variety, was good for you.
Again, there’s minimal stress on joints, and you’ll be enhancing your mobility—and your social life—just by getting out onto a lawn or a pétanque pitch with friends.
Banner photo: Yoga (credit: pixs4u)
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