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Things to remember while exercising:
Move your joints daily to prevent stiffness and loss of joint movement.
Exercises should be done on a regular basis. You should try to do them on good days and bad days, although you may have to modify the program if you are having more pain than usual.
An inflamed joint should only be moved gently through its range of motion.
It is important to listen to your body and not overdo it. If an exercise hurts, stop! Pain (other than normal arthritis discomfort) is your body’s way of telling you something is wrong. If you get tired, rest! Wait a few minutes, then continue when you are ready.
Always begin a session with some slow warm-up exercises to reduce stress on the joints.
You should attempt to achieve a full range of motion by moving until you feel a slight stretch. Do not force the motion, going only as far as you feel comfortable.
Move at your own pace, performing exercises in a slow and steady motion.
Strength training can be done with small free weights, exercise machines, isometrics, elastic bands, and resistive water exercises. Correct positioning is critical, because if done incorrectly, strengthening exercises can cause muscle tears, more pain, and more joint swelling.
Most experts agree that if exercise causes pain that lasts for more than 1 hour, it is too much.
Other ways to protect your joints:
Avoid keeping your joints in the same position for long periods of time. To reduce stiffness, avoid prolonged sitting and get up and walk around every hour or so.
The strongest or largest joints and muscles should be used instead of the weakest ones, and weight should be distributed over several joints. For example, push open a heavy door with the side of your arm, not with your hand and outstretched arm. Carry a heavy bag or purse over your shoulder instead of holding it by the fingers.
Maintain good posture and body mechanics, keeping joints in their most stable and functional position. Bad posture can lead to possible deformities and increased pain.
Use a straight-back chair with a firm seat when sitting. When rising from a chair, use the muscles of the legs while also pushing off of the arms of the chair with palms or forearms (not fingers).
Jen received her master's degree in health promotion and education from the University of Cincinnati. A mom and avid marathon runner, she is a certified personal trainer, certified health coach and advanced health & fitness specialist. See all of Jen's articles.
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