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Stiff joints hurt your ability to perform daily tasks, like buttoning a shirt or opening a can. But stretching will improve your range of motion, resulting in greater flexibility and less pain. Stretch every major muscle group daily, paying particular attention to the joints affected by arthritis to help prevent joint stiffness and soreness.
Try SparkPeople's Stretching Guide. This program offers a wide variety of stretches, from seated to standing and beginner to advanced. Choose the stretches that work for you and do them on a daily basis.
Avoid bouncing during stretches. A stretch should be slow, controlled, and not pushed to the point of pain.
Weak muscles are common in people with arthritis. This decrease in strength is often caused by inactivity (due to the pain of arthritis) or medication side effects. Muscular strength is important because it decreases the stress on your joints, absorbs shock, protects your joints from injury, and helps improve your overall mobility. Before you start a strength training program, talk to your doctor for recommendations based on your condition and the degree of inflammation you experience.
Try to perform strengthening exercises every other day. Start slowly and master the form of each exercise without weights, then move up to light weights that you can control. SparkPeople's Guide to Strength Training and Exercise Demos can help you get started.
Try isometric exercises. These safe and effective moves contract your muscles but don't move the joint (i.e. holding a bag of groceries). They're great for people with very painful joints because they build muscular strength with very little joint motion. Some examples of isometric exercises in the Fitness Resource Center include: Isometric Biceps Hold with Towel and Isometric Shoulder Hold with Towel. But you can modify any exercise to make it isometric by holding the position without repeating the movement. For example, Dumbbell Squats and Forward Lunges become isometric when you lower into the squat or lunge position and hold it there instead of performing the up and down motion.
Avoid strength training if you are experiencing joint swelling or pain. Resume your activities when the swelling and pain subside.
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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