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Ester Marsh column – Exercise, tailored to needs, can help relieve arthritis

Q: I have arthritis and need to exercise but I don’t want to make the pain worse. What can I do?
A: Arthritis is an inflammation of one or more joints which results in swelling, stiffness and limited movement. There are many different types of arthritis, so make sure you know which type you have. Arthritis involves the breakdown of cartilage. It is common in the normal aging process and can also occur due to wear and tear of the cartilage from injuries or overuse.
Cartilage normally protects the joint, allowing for smooth movements. It also works as a shock absorber, for example, when you are walking or running. Without the usual amount of cartilage, the bones “rub” together causing pain, swelling (inflammation) and stiffness.
Arthritis can occur in men and women of all ages. About 37 million people in America have arthritis of some kind (which is almost one out of every seven people).
Exercise for arthritis is necessary to maintain healthy joints, relieve stiffness, reduce pain and fatigue, and improve muscle and bone strength. Your exercise program should be tailored to you as an individual.
If you are ready to start now, you can start with low impact exercising, like walking and bicycling. Swimming is wonderful exercise for anyone but especially for people with arthritis. The water gives your body buoyancy, which reduces stress on the hips, knees and spine. A stretch program will help you improve your range of motion and will assist you in your ability to perform daily activities more comfortably. With the help of a knowledgeable trainer, you could start a light strength program to enhance your muscle tone.
Rest is just as important as exercise. Sleeping 8-10 hours per night and taking naps during the day can help you recover from flare-ups more quickly. Also, avoid holding for too long any position that places extra stress on your affected joints.
Reduce stress. Stress can aggravate your symptoms. Yoga, Tai Chi and BODYFLOW are excellent choices to help you with that; just make sure your instructors knows about your health challenges.
I wish you good luck and I know after you start your program, you will feel a lot better.
Contact Ester Marsh with health and fitness questions at 704-636-0111 or e-mail her at emarsh @rowanymca.com.

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