Some people enjoy participating in one or more of the numerous exercise programs that address special needs of people with arthritis. Your doctor or physical therapist can provide information about whether these routines may suit your needs. Many routines focus on simple chair exercises and arm and leg movements, using light weights and frequent repetitions for upper and lower body conditioning. Be careful with frequent repetition, especially if you have rheumatoid arthritis, because it can aggravate joint pain. Chair exercises don’t help maintain bone strength as well as weight-bearing exercises. If you’re able, add walking to such a routine. When gauging an exercise program, take into consid¬eration your other daily activities. Make sure you don’t exercise a joint or muscle group too much. Programs you may wish to consider include those listed here.
Water exercises are especially beneficial. Soothing, warm water (between 83 and 90 F) relaxes your muscles. The body’s buoyancy in water relieves stress on joints and provides muscle¬strengthening resistance. In 1993, more than 56,000 people participated in the Arthritis Foundation’s aquatic exercise programs. For more infor¬mation, call your local Arthritis Foundation chapter or similar organiza¬tion in your area.
Tai Chi (tie CREE):
Today people use the ancient Chinese martial art of Tai Chi to relax and strengthen muscles and joints and reduce tension in body and mind. Tai Chi’s slow, deliberate circular movements and postures combined with deep, regular breathing can increase circulation, relax the mind and body and ease chronic pain. As you concentrate on your body’s motions, you feel both alert and tranquil, an effect that has earned Tai Chi the label “moving meditation.” Your local health club or YMCA may offer Tai Chi classes.
Numerous exercise videos are designed specifically for people with arthritis. Some videos may contain movements not appropriate for your level of strength or ability. Discuss each exercise on the video with your physical therapist. Discontinue movements that seem too difficult, cause pain or cause joint swelling.
• The Arthritis Foundation has developed a set of two videos, People With Arthritis Can Exercise (PACE). Level offers gentle sitting and standing exercises, and Level 2 is a moderate program. Call your local library, arthritis support group or Arthritis Foundation chapter to borrow the tapes. Call the national membership center office of the Arthritis Foundation to purchase them.
• Gentle Fitness is a video designed for people of all ages, including those with limited energy, strength or mobility. If you find the PACE series too strenuous, this may be an appropriate choice.
Chances are, you’ll stick with your exercise program if it’s fun. But give it enough time. People who maintain a new behavior for 6 months usually have long-term success as it becomes a habit. Many health clubs offer classes for exercise novices. Make your goal exercise-a reward itself-rather than a “slow” goal such as losing weight.