Arthritis Medical Clinic

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951-781-7700951-781-0313 Fax

LocationRiverside6180 Brockton Avenue, Riverside, CA 92506
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LocationLa Sierra4244 Riverwalk Parkway, Riverside, CA 92505
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Exercise and Arthritis

Physically active individuals are healthier, happier and live longer than those who are inactive and unfit. This is especially true for people with arthritis. Yet, arthritis is one of the most common reasons people give for limiting physical activity and recreational pursuits. Inactivity, in addition to arthritis-related problems, can result in a variety of health risks, including Type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis.

In addition, decreased pain tolerance, weak muscles, stiff joints and poor balance common to many forms of arthritis can be made worse by inactivity. For many older people with arthritis, joint and muscle changes due to aging can make matters worse. Therefore, for the person with arthritis, the right kind of exercise is very important.

What exercises are helpful and safe?

The three main levels of exercise are 1) therapeutic/rehabilitative; 2) recreational/leisure; and 3) competitive/elite. Finding the right balance is key.

Therapeutic exercises, prescribed by health professionals, address specific joints or body parts affected by the arthritis or arthritis-related surgery. A therapeutic exercise program is often a necessary first step for individuals who have been inactive, have restricted joint motion or muscle strength, are experiencing joint paint or are recovering from surgery such as a joint replacement.

Recreational or leisure activities can range from walking and swimming to cross country skiing and running. Appropriate forms are those that can be done in a controlled and safe manner, have little risk of injury, and place little stress and loads on affected joints. In most cases, participating in recreational exercise does not do away with the need for therapeutic exercises.

Competitive or elite level activities are performed at higher intensities, for longer durations and require greater skill and training. There are limited reports of people with arthritis continuing or returning to a competitive level of sport participation. However, as a general rule, exercising at this level is not recommended for individuals with inflammatory arthritis or with joint problems that may be adversely affected by the sporting activity (e.g. marathon running with hip or knee arthritis). If you have mild or early arthritis and wish to continue exercising at this level, first talk to your rheumatologist or a physical therapist who has experience in arthritis and knowledge of the specific sport.

Fast Facts

  • Physical activity is made up of daily tasks, both occupational and leisure activities that are usually affected by arthritis. Exercise or planned physical activity then becomes that much more important.
  • People with arthritis who exercise regularly have less pain, more energy, improved sleep and better day-to-day function.
  • Starting off slowly with a few, low-intensity exercises will help to ensure a safe and successful exercise program.
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