Many people say their fifties are the best decade, where people are generally more stable in terms of property and finances – however, for many people it is also when health challenges like arthritis begin to make movement difficult and painful – and if knees, hips or ankles are affected this can quickly lead to reduced mobility.
Staying active with arthritis can be challenging. However, exercise is crucial for managing arthritis symptoms and improving overall health. This article provides practical tips and a step-by-step guide for gradually increasing physical activity, starting from a sedentary lifestyle to achieving 5000 steps a day.
Understanding Arthritis and Exercise
Arthritis, characterized by joint pain and stiffness, can make the prospect of exercise daunting. Yet, regular physical activity can reduce pain, improve joint function, and prevent further deterioration, while also helping you lose excess weight which could be adding extra strain on your joints. It’s essential to understand that gentle, low-impact exercises are beneficial and doable, even with arthritis.
Here’s how to get started:
Step 1: Consult with Your Doctor
Before starting any new exercise routine, it’s important to consult with a healthcare provider. They can offer personalized advice and ensure that your exercise plan is safe and effective for your specific type of arthritis.
Step 2: Start with Gentle Stretching
Begin with gentle stretching exercises to improve flexibility and reduce stiffness. Focus on slow, controlled movements that stretch the major muscle groups. Try to incorporate stretching into your daily routine, even on days when you don’t plan to walk more.
Step 3: Stay Hydrated
Staying hydrated is vital when you live with arthritis. Hydration is key for flushing toxins out of your body, which can help fight inflammation, and well-hydrated cartilage reduces the rate of friction between bones, meaning you can move more easily.
Step 4: Incorporate Low-Impact Activities
Low-impact activities such as swimming, cycling, or using an elliptical machine are excellent for building endurance and strength without putting too much strain on the joints.
Step 5: Set Realistic Goals
Set achievable goals for daily steps. Start small, aiming for increments of 500 to 1000 steps (or even 250 if you are really struggling!) Use a pedometer or a smartphone app to track your progress.
Step 6: Gradually Increase Your Steps Once you’re comfortable
While exercise is important, with arthritis, avoid ‘going for the burn’ and just gradually increase your daily steps. As your flexibility improves, see where you could add small amounts of walking to your routine, like a short walk after meals or parking farther from work or store entrances.
Step 7: Listen to Your Body
Pay attention to your body’s signals. If you experience increased pain or swelling, take a break or reduce your activity level back down. Remember, it’s about consistent, gradual progress, not pushing through pain.
Step 8: Stay Motivated
Staying motivated can be challenging. Find a walking buddy, join a support group, or set up rewards for reaching your step goals. Celebrate your progress, no matter how small.
Step 9: Incorporate Strength Training
Strength training is really helpful as it can support the muscles around your joints, helping them take the load. You can do this by incorporating light weightlifting or resistance band exercises twice a week. The best way to do this is with support from a qualified physiotherapist or fitness professional who can show you the right exercises and the correct techniques.
Step 10: Balance and Flexibility
In addition to walking and strength training, try to include balance and flexibility exercises. Yoga and tai chi are great options for enhancing balance and improving joint mobility – and they also deliver valuable mental health benefits. If you have never done Yoga before and are worried about starting, Chair Yoga is seated and really gentle while being highly effective.
Achieving 5000 steps a day with arthritis is a realistic and beneficial goal. By starting slowly, setting achievable targets, and listening to your body, you can significantly improve your physical activity level, manage arthritis symptoms, and enhance your overall quality of life. Remember, the key is consistency and gradual progression, not speed or intensity.