Getting enough exercise to stay in—or get into—good shape is hard enough, but it can be especially difficult when you’re coping with joint pain.
Forget the 1980s mantra of “no pain, no gain.” The truth is that there are plenty of low-impact options out there—no matter your fitness level—that can help you burn calories without subjecting your body to a pounding. And better still, the right kind of exercises actually can help reduce joint pain by increasing flexibility and strength.
Every journey begins with a single step, and simply walking can be one of the best ways to ensure you are getting the exercise you need. Walking is one of the least intimidating programs if you’re just getting started, yet it can offer a host of benefits—even if you are suffering from arthritis.
When you have joint pain, water can be your best friend. Water’s buoyancy reduces impact on joints while increasing support of them. Its resistance helps you burn more calories than exercising in air. If you have access to a pool, you’ll have a host of alternatives for pain-free workouts. Obviously, swimming is one great option, but most pools offer a variety of exercise classes, including walking and aerobics.
Yoga has a well-earned reputation for offering a gentle workout, and programs easily can be tailored to suit your fitness level. In addition to improving flexibility and strength, which can ease joint pain, some studies have indicated that yoga may decrease inflammation. Yoga may offer psychological benefits, too.
Pilates is similar to yoga, relying on poses and movement. The primary focus in Pilates is on core strength, with increased flexibility a secondary benefit.
The slow, gentle movements of tai chi are the very definition of a low-impact workout and well-suited to those with joint issues. Like yoga, tai chi also is believed to help reduce stress levels.
Cycling allows you to get in a workout while taking the pressure off weight-bearing joints. Whether you’re taking an 18-speed out on a bike trail, going to the gym for a spin class or riding a recumbent in your basement, cycling can be a great low-impact workout.
Building muscles can help support joints, and weight training can obviously aid that goal. If you’re suffering from joint pain, think about using lighter weights and more repetitions to gain maximum benefits.
Talk with your doctor before beginning any exercise program. Discuss your goals and any physical limitations you may have. Many fitness centers offer personal trainers, who may also be of help as you choose the exercise program that’s best for you.