Exercise with Osteoarthritis: The Challenge of Moving Forward

Best Practices - Exercise with Osteoarthritis

Need to learn how to exercise with osteoarthritis? You're in the right place!

If you are one of the twenty million Americans that have been diagnosed with osteoarthritis and are wondering if you can possibly participate in an exercise program…take heart! As a personal trainer who suffers with this disease, my experience with my own personal training has been eye opening. 

If you are a personal trainer and wondering if you can give your new client with arthritis any hope that success can be achieved…read on. 

Osteoarthritis is the most common arthritis, especially among older people. It can sometimes be present in younger people but is usually a result of an injury with this population. Osteoarthritis is a joint disease that mainly affects the cartilage. When cartilage wears away, the bones are allowed to rub together causing discomfort, swelling and limited range of motion in the joints. The most common areas in the body that this form of arthritis may manifest are: hands, knees, spine and hips. 

Treatments usually consist of rest, exercise, medications and topical treatments, nontraditional treatments, healthy living and controlled body weight. 

Research is now showing us that exercise is extremely important, if done properly, in the treatment of osteoarthritis. It can keep joints moving, decrease any pain present, help with flexibility and promote wellness as well as a better outlook on life. 

Aerobic, strengthening and range of motion exercises should be performed by clients with osteoarthritis. 

Aerobic training will improve cardiovascular fitness and help with weight control. (20–30 min. 3 times weekly) 

Strength training will increase muscle strength to protect and support joints. (Daily or every other day) 

Range of Motion (ROM) exercises will increase flexibility. (Daily or every other day)

It’s important to speak with a physician before starting an exercise program to prevent further injury but most physicians recommend exercise for their patients who have this disease. 

How to get started

• Discuss plans with your doctor
• Apply heat to sore joints-optional
• Stretch and warm up with ROM exercises
• Start strengthening exercises slowly with small weights (1 or 2 lbs.)
• Progress slowly
• Use cold packs after exercising-optional
• Add aerobic exercises such as swimming and aquatic exercises, walking, biking and cross country skiing.
• Ease off if joints become painful, inflamed or red and consult your doctor.
• Choose exercises that help you to enjoy your program!
Recent evidence suggests exercise can help reduce the likelihood of developing arthritis.

If you are a personal trainer, encourage your clients to be proactive and help prevent this disease from occurring or progressing.

For additional information on the treatment and prevention of arthritis, contact the National Arthritis Foundation. (Information and recommendations supplied by National Arthritis Foundation and International Sports Science Association)

exercise with osteoarthritis

by Kathryn Payne, Head Trainer, Master Trainer, CPFT. She is an expert in exercise with osteoarthritis.

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