It may be hard for a senior to motivate themselves to exercise when they are experiencing an arthritis flare-up. However, according to the Arthritis Foundation, exercise may be the best way to improve your overall activity level and manage the pain.
Learn more about seven gentle exercises that you can pursue to improve your health and reduce your arthritis pain, without causing more stress to sensitive joints.
All seniors should talk to their doctor before they begin a new exercise regime. Your doctor may want to test your cardiovascular health before you begin. They may also have valuable advice about exercises that are best for you considering your health conditions.
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When you begin exercising, you should spend several minutes warming up whichever part of your body you are going to work – and be sure to exercise your left and right sides equally.
If at any time during exercise you feel pain, you should stop. Physiotherapists can help those who are struggling to exercise without pain.
Here are seven gentle exercises that you can pursue to reduce arthritis pain:
1. Fist Close: Maintaining finger flexibility is key for those with arthritis in the hands. This simple exercise can help. Simply ball your hand into a fist, slowly if it is challenging. Hold your hand in a fist for five seconds, or as long as you can. Release and repeat.
2. Wrist Bends: Some with arthritis find that their wrists get stuck or can’t bend as far as they need them too. This exercise can help, when practiced regularly. Place your elbow on a tabletop, with your hand pointing to the ceiling. Slowly push back your open palm with your other hand. Don’t push so hard you feel pain, but do try to go as far as you can. Hold for five seconds and release. Now push your hand forward, hold for five seconds and release.
3. Make an “O”: This last exercise may be a challenge if you have very serious arthritis, but it can also be very useful. Attempt to make an “O” shape with your hand. Hold your fingers together, bend your thumb, and gently try to touch your thumb to your index finger. You will get better at this exercise with time.
4. Sitting Stretch: This exercise will gently move your hips and as a bonus, stretch your leg muscles. Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you. Slowly bend forward at the hips and reach for your feet. Most likely, you will not be able to reach very far at first, so don’t push yourself. Over time you will become more flexible.
5. Step-Ups: Gently bending your knee will help relieve pain. You don’t need special equipment to do this. Instead, find the nearest staircase. Hold on to the banister for balance, if necessary, and step one leg onto the bottom step, then the other. Move backward off the step and repeat.
6. Ankle Circles: Seniors may wish to hold onto the side of a chair, for balance, when they try this exercise. Stand up and raise one foot off the floor. Point your toe and draw a circle. This moves your ankle through its full range of motion. Draw five circles and then change direction. Be sure to do the other ankle too.
7. Swimming: It can be especially challenging to exercise when you have arthritis in multiple joints. One way to relieve pain and move all of these suffering joints is by swimming. Water takes the weight off all of your joints so you can move them further with less pain. If you can no longer swim, or don’t enjoy it, you can join water aerobic classes where you spend most of the time standing on the bottom of the pool.
It may be a challenge to adjust to a new exercise at first. However, seniors with arthritis have a lot to gain from trying a few gentle exercises a day.
How do you deal with your arthritis pain? Which gentle exercises are your favorite? We’d like to hear your suggestions in the comments below.