Oh the “A” word….
Lately is seems like this has been a HOT topic in the club, as we have quite a few amazing clients in our “fit-family” that unfortunately have to deal with some form of arthritis on a daily basis.
However, a common misconception around arthritis is that since arthritis effects the joints, that additional movement of the joints during exercise (specifically strength training) will cause further joint damage and pain. Because of this many people with arthritis AVOID the gym and lifting weights, which can actually be limiting their mobility, leaving them feeling MORE stiff and achy, and ultimately withholding them from a potentially better quality of life! 🙁
**Before I keep going, please note that as with any chronic illness, you should always contact your doctor first before beginning a new exercise program.**
Strength training (specifically working with FREE weights) actually offers a great number of benefits for those who have arthritis. But you don’t just have to take my word for it ;-), this is directly from the National Arthritis Foundation:
“Lifting weights provides numerous benefits to help manage your arthritis pain, and is a key component of overall health and fitness for everyone. Strength training keeps muscles around affected joints strong, it lubricates joints, decreases bone loss, helps control your weight, boosts your stamina, contributes to better balance, and helps control joint swelling and pain.”
Using FREE WEIGHTS (dumbbells, barbells, weight plates, medicine balls, kettlebells, and others) is a KEY factor in providing the desired benefits. Standard exercise machines limit both range of motion and more importantly, the need to engage stabilizing muscles while lifting. Free weights cause the body to work as a “system” as it was intended to, engaging the core and other targeted stabilizers, and ultimately creating stronger muscles to protect joints.
Here are my top 5 Tips for Strength Training with Arthritis:
Work with a trained professional (physical therapist or personal trainer familiar with working with arthritis). While free weights are preferable, they also require a higher level of knowledge to be performed correctly (without injury).
Try to schedule your workouts for the time of day you are the LEAST stiff and experience lowest levels of pain
Make necessary adaptations to exercises that are not comfortable for you (One day a specific exercise may feel great, next week it may not. LISTEN to your body. A trained professional should always be able to offer a proper alternative exercise.)
Keep Rest and Recovery a priority. “Off days” between strength training, utilizing low impact forms of cardio (such as swimming), and getting adequate amounts of sleep are all crucial. If you wake up with very high levels of inflammation/pain, it is probably best to put your strength training off a day until you can get the inflammation better under control.
Try to eliminate as many inflammatory causing foods as possible. Arthritis is an inflammatory disease, so removing foods from your diet that can cause internal inflammation will help to avoid flare ups. This could (and will be) a topic for an entire blog of its own, but some common inflammatory culprits are: Highly processed foods/meats, sugars, dairy, “junk” snack foods, fried food, gluten, soy, and alcohol).
If you have any questions about this topic, and are interested in speaking more one-on-one I would love to chat with you! You simply shoot me an email to the contact info below with the subject line: “Let’s Chat”. I’ll give you some times I have available to meet either live at the club or over the phone next week.
Dedicated to your success,