Exercise is Good for Your Joints

Regular exercise has a number of health benefits for the whole body. Studies have shown that a well-structured exercise routine can help protect against obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, insomnia, depression, dementia and some cancers. Despite this long list of benefits, only a relatively small proportion of the adult population manage to get enough exercise.

People who enjoy a sedentary lifestyle give various reasons — make that excuses — for being unable to exercise. The main excuse is the false belief that exercise causes arthritis, and while some athletes do contract arthritis as a result of injuries to the joints over many years, the benefits of regular exercise far outweigh the risks of arthritis. In fact, people who don’t exercise also get arthritis. Remember, the body only needs a moderate amount of daily exercise to build a healthy lifestyle. Also, movement actually nourishes the cartilage in you joints.

While exercise is beneficial for the body, there can be unwelcome side effects for some people. If you have existing health problems, get advice from your doctor before beginning a regular exercise programme. Patients with heart disease, hypertension and diabetes may need to avoid high-impact aerobics, for example. And anyone with joint problems should be careful with weight-bearing exercises. The right type of exercise actually helps patients with arthritis, since it improves mobility. Swimming is excellent for this, as the water takes the strain off the joints.

Take simple precautions like wearing good quality, supportive shoes for exercise, and do some stretching exercises first to decrease the risk of injuries to the joints and muscles. Remember, warming up and cooling down is an important part of your exercise routine if you wish to avoid injury. Exercises that strengthen the joints can improve stamina and flexibility and reduce pain. These are some of the best exercises for your joints.

Hot Yoga

This is any type of yoga performed in a room where the temperature is between 95 and 100 degree Fahrenheit, such as Bikram yoga. Studies have shown that doing yoga in a warm environment loosens the muscles and promotes flexibility. However, this type of exercise is not suitable for anyone with a heart condition or high blood pressure.

Gyrotonics

This is a series of Pilates-like exercises using a combination of a pulley and weight machine combined with yoga. The pulley machine allows participants to strengthen muscles and stretch simultaneously, by the use of repetitive continuous motions that apply minimum joint impact. A qualified instructor can formulate an individual, supervised programme. Gyrotonics needs good co-ordination and balance, and is most suitable for small groups or one-on-one sessions.

Spinning

iStock_000017541943_SmallSpinning classes use stationary bikes as an exercise tool. Cycling is ideal for those with joint problems as it is low impact aerobic exercise. There are numerous spinning classes to choose from, so you are sure to find one that fits your needs. Spinning is not suitable for older people, due to the intensity of the cardiovascular workout. Ensure the class you join has a qualified spinning instructor. The stationary bike must be properly adjusted to prevent injury.

Pilates

This is a program of exercise combined with gentle stretching, and is often used to improve strength and posture, mainly in the core muscles. Pilates is most advantageous when a qualified instructor uses a specifically designed programme tailored to the individual’s health and fitness requirements.

Barre workouts

Barre workouts offer a combination of isometric, Pilates, yoga and muscle stretching. This type of ballet inspired exercise promotes better posture and helps muscles to relax and elongate. The best barre classes offer mind-body focus and are challenging, but also calming and gentle on the joints.

Zumba

Zumba is a lot of fun. It’s a dance-based exercise that incorporates meringue, salsa, samba, hip-hop and belly dancing. It’s low impact, high energy aerobics, so it’s suitable for people of all ages and fitness levels. And because it’s such fun, you’re more likely to stick with it

Swimming

Swimming is great all-round exercise, which can be done throughout the year in south Florida. In fact, in summer it’s probably the most comfortable way to exercise. It’s good for people who are overweight or have joint problems, since the water supports the joints and also provides some resistance, which means the exercise is more effective.

Cycling

Cycling’s another fun exercise for people of all ages that is gentle on the joints. It is a low impact aerobic exercise that improves overall fitness, builds stamina and strengthens the joints. Again the bicycle must be adjusted to properly fit your body. Particularly if the seat is adjusted too low, cycling can aggravate painful conditions under the kneecaps.

All these exercises can help to improve your general fitness, build stamina, improve mobility and strengthen the joints. However, to get the most from exercise, it needs to be enjoyable so that you will persevere with it and continue to reap the benefits. Keep it interesting by varying the routine and exercising with friends to keep the motivation going. Above all, enjoy it — keeping fit should be a pleasure, not a chore.

By: Theodore A Evans M.D. and the team at South Florida International Orthopaedics