How to Get Started With Your Exercise Regimen for Arthritis

Senior man with physical therapist
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People with arthritis are repeatedly reminded about the importance of exercise as part of disease management. While they understand the need to move joints and muscles, two things seem to get in the way:

  • They don't know which exercises to include in their exercise regimen.
  • They don't think they can do enough to matter.

Understandably, to commit to an exercise regimen, you want assurance that you are doing the right thing. Where can you get that assurance? How should you begin? Here are 5 tips that will get you on the right path and will allow you to commit to your exercise regimen for arthritis.

5 Tips to Get Started

Start with what you know has been recommended. Put your joints through their full range of motion on a daily basis. Range of motion exercise is gentle and appropriate for people with arthritis.

Ask your doctor for a referral to physical therapy. A physical therapist will be able to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. By doing so, the physical therapist will be able to put together a strategy and plan to focus on your weaknesses. This is not something you can do by yourself. It is to your advantage to have a therapist, who is professionally trained, conduct your physical evaluation.

Once the physical therapist provides you with an exercise routine or regimen, created with the intent of strengthening your weaknesses, work with the therapist for a period of time. Work with the therapist long enough to get in the groove and know that you are performing the exercises properly. Your insurance will determine how many physical therapy visits will be covered. There are limits. For example, in 2017, Medicare has a therapy cap limit of $1,980 for physical therapy and speech-language pathology combined. Check your own insurance.

Once you have used your allotment of physical therapy visits, come away with home exercises that you can continue to do on your own, as well as a gym routine that you may continue privately. This really is the whole point of consulting a physical therapist—to get on the right track and come away with an exercise regimen you can continue indefinitely.

Periodic re-assessment is helpful because your exercise regimen may need adjustment. Depending on whether your strength and range of motion has improved or declined, you may need to add or subtract specific exercises from your routine or change the number of reps and sets.

Why It's Important to Stay Committed

We've discussed how to get on the right track with your exercise regimen but it also requires a commitment that must come from you. Here's why you must be committed to the routine.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), our bone, joints, and muscles support the body and help us move. Healthy bones, joints, and muscles allow us to perform usual daily activities and to be physically active. The CDC has stated, "Research shows that doing aerobic, muscle-strengthening and bone-strengthening physical activity of at least a moderately-intense level can slow the loss of bone density that comes with age. People who do 120 to 300 minutes of at least moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week have a lower risk of hip fracture."

"If you have arthritis, research shows that doing 130 to 150 (2 hours and 10 minutes to 2 hours and 30 minutes) a week of moderate-intensity, low-impact aerobic activity can not only improve your ability to manage pain and do everyday tasks, but it can also make your quality of life better", according to the CDC.

The Bottom Line

Did you find the CDC recommendations daunting? You shouldn't. Your starting point is your current level of activity and physical function. A physical therapist can help you build on that, so that the CDC guidelines are achievable or your own maximum potential is achieved. Start down the path and stick with it!

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