The longer you’ve been walking around on two legs, the more likely you may have some form of knee arthritis. Approximately 27 million Americans are affected by knee arthritis, according to the Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Many of these individuals have a form of arthritis called osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis can result from the natural wear and tear of walking and other activities that impact your knees. Over time, the cartilage that provides a natural cushion between the bones starts to wear away. The bones can then rub together and cause pain, swelling and difficulty moving.
Managing Knee Arthritis with Exercise
It’s only natural to slow down and limit your activity if movement causes pain and stiffness, but that may actually be the worst thing you can do. Research shows that inactivity increases osteoarthritis pain and can even lead to a total loss of mobility in severe cases. Exercise, however, can actually help relieve pain and allow you to stay mobile and active despite knee arthritis.
Here’s how it works:
- Exercise increases the amount of blood that goes to your cartilage, which brings it the nutrients required for optimal health.
- Exercise strengthens the muscles that surround your joints. This increases the amount of weight they can handle safely without damage to the knee joint.
- Exercise can help you lose weight. Losing even a few pounds can help reduce the amount of stress placed on your weight-bearing joints like your hips or knees.
Always talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program, especially if it’s been awhile since you exercised regularly or if activity is painful. Your doctor can suggest what exercises would be best based on the severity and type of arthritis you have. You may be referred to a physical therapist to put together an exercise routine tailored to your specific needs and abilities. You may also benefit from assistive devices like braces or shoe inserts to help get you on the right path to fitness.
Moderate exercise is usually the best place to start. Low impact activities like walking, swimming and riding a bike are good alternatives that allow you to get moving without putting too much stress on your joints. Yoga or Tai Chi may help improve your balance, strength and flexibility.
Aim for 20 to 30 minutes of exercise at least three or four times a week. If that is too aggressive starting out, try breaking your activities up into smaller segments of time such as a 10-minute walk in the morning and a 10-minute walk in the afternoon.
As your strength increases, gradually increase the length and intensity of your workouts but be careful not to overdo it. Exercise should not cause serious pain. Some soreness is normal the day after you exercise, but it should not be so severe that it preventsyou from moving without pain.
Living with osteoarthritis can be a challenge, but regular, moderate exercise can help you avoid immobility and pain.
St. Vincent Evansville offers a wide array of exercise programs focused on wellness and health. Visit StVincentSWIN.org/classes for a complete listing of available classes.