The Benefits of Exercising

Proper exercises performed on a regular basis are an important part of arthritis treatment, according to the Arthritis Foundation. Twenty years ago, doctors advised exactly the opposite, fearing that activity would cause more damage and inflammation. Not exercising causes weak muscles, stiff joints, reduced mobility, and lost vitality, say rheumatologists, who now routinely advise a balance of physical activity and rest.

According to the 1996 Surgeon General's Report on Physical Activity and Health, regular, moderate physical activity is beneficial in decreasing fatigue, strengthening muscles and bones, increasing flexibility and stamina, and improving the general sense of well-being. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) advises that the amount and form of exercise should depend on which joints are involved, the amount of inflammation, how stable the joints are, and whether a joint replacement procedure has been done. A skilled physician who is knowledgeable about the medical and rehabilitation needs of people with arthritis, working with a physical therapist, can design an exercise plan for each patient.

Three main types of exercises are recommended:

* Range-of-motion-moving a joint as far as it will comfortably go and then stretching it a little further to increase and maintain joint mobility, decrease pain, and improve joint function. These can be done daily, or at least every other day.

* Strengthening-using muscles without moving joints to help increase muscle strength and stabilize weak joints. These can be done daily, or at least every other day, unless there is severe pain or swelling.

* Endurance-aerobic exercises such as walking, swimming and bicycling to strengthen the heart and lungs and increase stamina. These should be done for 20 to 30 minutes, three times a week, unless there is severe pain or swelling.

 
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