By Chad Tackett
Arthritis affects millions of people each and every year. The term arthritis means "inflammation of a joint," and it actually refers to many conditions that can cause pain in your body's joints. The most common form of arthritis that occurs in older adults is osteoarthritis, which is also known as the "degenerative joint disease."
As a person gets older this type of arthritis may develop simply due to the normal wear and tear of the joints over the years as the body ages. Other factors that may hasten the development of osteoarthritis include being overweight, having a poor posture, or even a previous injury. A wearing out of the cartilage that covers the ends of the bones results in chronic irratation. The cartilage becomes soft and wears unevenly. In some circumstances it may wear away completely, exposing the underlying bone. Thickening of the ends of the bone may occur.
Usually a person who is suffering from osteoarthritis only has problems in the joints of their hip, knee and spine. Sometimes the pain associated with it can be relieved with rest, while other times, especially in the case of more serious symptoms, drugs may be used to reduce the swelling. In addition, exercises can be taught to help strengthen the muscles around the joint to reduce the stress upon it. Only in very severe osteoarthritis cases is surgery necessary to replace or repair the damaged joints.
Exercise is very important for everyone, but it is especially important for people who are suffering from arthritis. However, if you are afflicted with any form of that disease, running, aerobic dance and most team sports are probably out of your league. But it doesn't mean that you can't be physically active.
Here are some exercises that will help you to strengthen your joints:
- Ride a bicycle. Unlike walking, running, aerobic dancing and other weight-bearing activities, bicycling is gentle on your joints and can be done by people of all ages.
- Stretch. Often overlooked or just plain neglected, stretching exercises are a vital way to strengthen your joints, keep you limber and feeling good at the same time. Fitness experts recommend doing at least a half an hour of stretching two or three times a week, but every day is even better, if only for a short period of time.
Many age-related stiffness is simply the result of inactivity. In fact, in one recent study, a group of nearly 1,000 adults enrolled in the same exercise class over a twenty-five year period experienced modest declines in strength and aerobic fitness, but no loss of flexibility.
- Climb the stairs. This form of exercise is probably one of the most efficient ways of strengthening the bones, muscles and joints of your lower body. What's more, stairs are everywhere, and they're free. You don't need a membership in an expensive health club; the stairs in your home or at the mall will do just fine.
- Swimming. Even if you can't swim, you can use the pool for an excellent workout to help strengthen those joints. Remember, if it's hot and humid outside, you surely won't want to exercise. But a quick trip to the swimming pool will not only cool your off, it can set you on the road to a healthier lifestyle.
Most people hate to exercise. They are usually more comfortable sitting in front of the TV instead. But the trick is to make exercise fun, and find one that excites you and that you look forward to doing several times a week. And when you become bored, make slight changes in your routine, keep it exciting. Experiment and find out what works best for you. Once you find that perfect exercise that is just right for you, you won't hesitate to get off the couch and begin a healthier way of life.